MSG Entertainment has come under scrutiny recently for the corporation’s “adverse attorney policy,” barring lawyers engaged in active litigation against the company from attending events at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. As more lawyers take their stories to the press and file injunctions against the AI-enforced policy, MSG CEO James Dolan appeared on WNYW‘s Good Day New York to defend the rule.
“If you owned a bakery, or a restaurant,” Dolan said in a summary of the policy,” and someone comes in and buys bread from you and then the next day, they serve you with a lawsuit ’cause they hated your bread, they said something happened to them with it, etcetera. Then the next day they show up at your bakery again and say ‘I’d like to buy some more bread.’ Would you sell them the bread?”
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In a press release that accompanied Dolan’s TV appearance, MSG doubled down on the policy and hit back at politicians and critics who have come out in opposition. The company characterized the “small percentage” of attendees banned from concerts and sporting events as “ambulance chasers” and “money grabbers whose business is motivated by self-promotion and who capitalize on the misfortune of others.” MSG also claimed that some of those affected are lawyers representing ticket scalpers “who make getting tickets for the average game and concert-goer next to impossible and exorbitantly expensive.”
The company also made sure to clarify that this policy only applies to attorneys representing ticket scalpers, personal injury claims, and class action litigations. It does not include claims related to sexual harassment or employment discrimination.
“This is not discriminatory and we will not back down,” Dolan said, “The Garden has to defend itself—our values are important to us.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James has become involved in the imbroglio in the interest of civil rights protections. Dolan and MSG confirmed that the company is fully cooperating with the AG’s office, but as Dolan asked Good Day New York anchor Rosanna Scotto, “Do you think those attorneys are a minority?”
Dolan also used his appearance to blast the elected officials he sees jumping on this controversy for political points and press attention. Specifically, Dolan shamed newly-minted New York Senator Brad Holyman-Sigal who recently sent an email to supporters saying “I’m fighting to end the biometric surveillance of fans at Madison Square Garden” and soliciting donations.
“We urge our elected representatives to focus on causes that improve the quality of life for their constituents,” Dolan reiterated in the press release, “such as addressing rampant crime and homelessness in the city, rather than taking up the cause of a small percentage of attorneys so they can attend Knicks and Rangers games. These elected officials are exploiting this issue for their own publicity and fundraising platform—going as far as to solicit donations.”
Also in Dolan’s crosshairs were the New York State Liquor Authority and its CEO Sharif Kabir. Dolan noted that the SLA is “way over its skis” by threatening to take away MSG’s liquor license. The MSG CEO has been sober for nearly 30 years and noted that, while he recognizes many sports fans and concertgoers enjoy a drink, he has no problem shutting down the facility’s alcohol sales. He even proposed picking a random Knicks or Rangers game to shut down all alcohol sales, and at concessions instead leave a note instructing displeased fans to contact Kabir and tell him to “stick to his knitting” and “stop grandstanding and trying to get press.”
Dolan also connected his fight against adversarial attorneys to other current events in the concert world. In response to MSG’s recent decision to only allow fans to purchase up to four tickets to a high-demand event, the company was sued by what Dolan characterized as ticket scalpers.
Ticket brokers buying up hundreds of concert tickets and creating scarcity, Dolan says, is “why you can’t get into a Taylor Swift concert because all the tickets got bought up by what they call bots, which are basically ticket scalpers.” Dolan, however, stops short of saying Ticketmaster is at fault—unlike many in the industry and on Capitol Hill—saying, “I don’t think it’s Ticketmaster at all. I mean ticket scalping has been going on for a long time.”
“If you’re being sued you don’t have to welcome the person into your home,” Dolan said in summary of his case.
MSG Entertainment has until February 13th to respond to NY AG Letitia James’ request to identify the efforts the company is making to ensure compliance with applicable anti-discrimination laws.
MSG CEO James Dolan On The Record