Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan Doubles Down on Use of Facial Recognition to Ban Entry: ‘The Garden Has to Defend Itself’

'Our values are important to us — the Garden has to defend itself,' James Dolan concluded.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20:  James L. Dolan attends the 5th Annual Little Steven's Policeman's Ball at Mandarin Oriental New York on December 20, 2019 in New York City.  (Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images)
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James Dolan, executive chairman of Madison Square Garden Entertainment, is not backing down from his stance on using facial recognition technology to ban people from entering the famed New York City venue.

On Thursday, Dolan appeared in a televised interview on Fox 5 New York and addressed the backlash he’s received for his use of facial recognition software to prevent people from entering MSG and other notable venues, including Radio City Music Hall.

“Facial recognition is just the technology. I mean, when I walked into the studio, did you recognize my face? Facial recognition! Technology just makes you better at it,” Dolan told anchor Rosanna Scotto. “The real issue that’s going on here is our policy of not letting attorneys who are suing us into our building until they’re done suing us. When they’re done, they’re very much welcome back.”

In December, the New York State Liquor Authority issued an advisory letter that claimed the venue would face “disciplinary action” in regard to its liquor license as a result of the bans.

Dolan responded to this in his interview, stating that the lawmakers are being “extremely aggressive, and they’re saying, ‘We’re gonna take away your liquor license.’ So I have a little surprise for them.” He went on to explain that he’s considering shutting down alcohol sales for a night at the Garden.

“Instead (of selling alcohol), where we serve liquor, we are going to put one of these up,” he said, showing a poster with a photo of Sharif Kabir, CEO of the State Liquor Authority, and his contact information. “If you would like to drink again, please call Sharif Kabir, chief executive officer … and tell him to stick to his knitting,” Dolan said.

The facial recognition feud started when MSG blocked entry to a group of lawyers who work for a firm currently involved in litigation against the venue. “If you’re suing us, we’re just asking you please don’t come until you’re done with your argument with us, and yes, we’re using facial recognition to enforce that,” he said. “Our values are important to us — the Garden has to defend itself.”

Earlier this week, State Attorney General Letitia James requested MSG provide “justifications for the company’s policies” in a letter sent to Garden officials. “MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arena,” the letter read, citing that approximately 90 law firms were affected by the decision. “Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all patrons who purchased tickets with fairness and respect.”

Under a bill introduced to the state Legislature on Monday, MSG and other sports venues would not be able to bounce event-goers from entry if they have a valid ticket. A spokesperson for the venue responded in defense of its new policy, stating it only excludes a “small percentage of lawyers” during active litigation and is not in violation of federal civil rights laws.

“Our policy does not unlawfully prohibit anyone from entering our venues and it is not our intent to dissuade attorneys from representing plaintiffs in litigation against us,” the statement read. “We are merely excluding a small percentage of lawyers only during active litigation. Most importantly, to even suggest anyone is being excluded based on the protected classes identified in state and federal civil rights laws is ludicrous. Our policy has never applied to attorneys representing plaintiffs who allege sexual harassment or employment discrimination.”