James Dolan, the mercurial CEO of Madison Square Garden Entertainment, has used facial recognition software to bar another fan from entering one of the company-owned venues, this time blocking a Brooklyn-born attorney from attending a Jan. 10 Rangers game.
The technology has been used to block at least four attorneys whose firms have litigation against MSG Entertainment-owned venues from entering Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.
Benjamin Pinczewski had passed through a metal detector and emptied the contents of his pocket for security guards for what he expected to be lower level seats near the ice with friends. Suddenly, he said two MSG officials approached and asked him if he was Benjamin Pinczewski.
He said when he replied that was indeed his name, he was handed a formal letter that said, “You have been denied entry into the venue because you are a lawyer at a firm that currently represents one or more plaintiffs in litigation against Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp or one of its affiliates or subsidiaries (collectively the “Company”).” He said he was then escorted from the arena by the guards.
“It was very embarrassing to be marched out in front of friends and fans like I was a criminal,” Pinczewski said. He called Dolan’s policy “petty and ridiculous.” And said he is especially alarmed that the Garden used facial recognition software to flag him. He presumes the Garden obtained his face from the web site of the law firm where he is “of counsel” at Elefterakis, Eleftrekis and Panek. He said using his face photo was done without his permission and that he was stunned to learn he was barred.
The MSG letter continued “In this regard, we previously advised your firm’s leadership as well as the attorney(s) who commenced the subject litigation that because of the adverserial nature inherent in litigation proceedings and because of the potential for contact with the Company’s employees and disclosure outside proper litigation discovery channels, that could result from your presence at the Company’s venues, attorneys from your firm may not enter the Company’s venues until final resolution of the litigation.”
The 61 year old attorney who was born in Canarsie, Brooklyn, but now lives in Closter, N.J. said he is a lifelong Knicks and Rangers fan. “I’m still a Brooklyn boy at heart,” he said.
Pinczewski is still active in Democratic politics in Brooklyn as well as regional youth baseball sports programs. He is one of the co-founders of the Borough Cup, a youth baseball tournament involving dozens of teams that has played games at the Brooklyn Cyclones Stadium and Yankee Stadium. He was honored by both the Shirley Chisolm Democratic Club and the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club which named him “Man of the Year” in 2021 and was honored on Martin Luther King Day in 2020 by Caribbean Images TV as one of its Leadership Award recepients.
“I personally could not care if I see another Knicks or Rangers game in person,” said Pinczewski, “but I want to shine a light on what he is doing with the facial recognition software. Who knows who could be banned next? What if it is a father taking his kid to his first sporting event and the father gets kicked out?”
He said “Dolan is potentially destroying the ability of parents and their kids to bond over sports.”
MSG is defending its policy and says Pincweski knew ahead of time that he was banned--a claim that Pincweski says is not true.
“MSG instituted a straightforward policy that precludes attorneys from firms pursuing active litigation against the Company from attending events at our venues until that litigation has been resolved. While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adversarial environment. All impacted attorneys were notified of the policy. We continue to make clear that impacted attorneys will be welcomed back to our venues upon resolution of the litigation.”
It is not the first time the MSG Enterprises use of facial recognition software has stirred controversy. Just last month, Kelly Conlon, a 44 year old attorney from New Jersey, was booted from seeing the Rockettes at the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, [which is owned by MSG Entertainment] that she was planning to attend with her 9 year old daughter’ Girls Scout troop. She had driven her daughter and several of her daughter’s friends to the show, expecting to see the high kicking Rockettes. Instead, she was plucked from the line, booted from the show and had to wait outside for 90 minutes in the rain before she could be reunited with her daughter and friends for the trip back to Jersey. Conlon is with the law firm of Davis Saperstein and she said she was informed that the reason for the banishment was because her firm was involved in litigation against Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp although in reports she said she was not personally involved in any of the lawsuits.
Two other attorneys, Alexis Majano and Nicolette Landi, in separate incidents, were reportedly also stopped from entering the Garden due to lawsuits involving their firms suing MSG Entertainment.
Pinczewski noted that the letter he was handed explaining why he was barred misspelled his last name. “That shows what a bunch of incompetents they are,” said Pinczewski.
MSG is also defending its use of the controversial software, which is more commonly used by airlines to thwart terrorists and by police departments to identify and arrest criminals. MSG Entertainment maintains it is in compliance with all laws on the matter.
“The facial recognition stuff is scary,” said Pinczweski. “I’ve never seen it done by any other business.” He added the Garden has not offered to refund the cost of the ticket for the game he was barred from seeing in person. He estimates it cost about $300.
”This shows what a petty individual James Dolan is,” Pinczweski said.