Lawyers defy Knicks’ MSG ban with obscure statute

james dolan, NBA, New York Knicks

The law firm of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP represented a group of ticket resellers, aka “scalpers”, when they sued after the New York Knicks wouldn’t renew their tickets. Owner James Dolan responded by revoking partner Larry Hutcher’s season tickets, banning all of the lawyers at the firm from any Madison Square Garden events, including Knicks and New York Rangers games. The ban extends to concerts, special events and events at MSG properties Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater.

An MSG spokesman defended the move, saying “MSG has both a right and obligation to protect itself during litigation procedures.” They claimed that banning the lawyers was protecting MSG “against improper disclosure and discovery.”

MSG sent letters to attorneys at over 90 firms informing them they were banned from MSG’s venues until their litigation was done. A mom leading a Girl Scout trip to see the Rockettes was kicked out after facial recognition software identified her, though the Scouts got to stay. 

But when you go after lawyers, those lawyers find legal loopholes.

Firms have registered complaints with state attorney generals’ offices, with liquor authorities and with the NBA and NHL league offices. And because of a 1941 New York state law drafted to protect theater critics from being banned after negative reviews, MSG is not allowed to ban adults over 21 from “legitimate theaters, burlesque theaters, music halls, opera houses, concert halls and circuses.”

Unfortunately for lawyers who love the Knicks, the 1941 law had a carve-out for sports, specifically racetracks at the time. So while lawyers have gotten injunctions allowing them to see concerts, seeing Jalen Brunson and R.J. Barrett is still forbidden for any lawyers whose firms are suing MSG.

The irony is that the ticket-seller issue is one that should have people on Dolan’s side. He’s taking away the tickets from resellers, and making more seats available for fans at normal prices. But by reacting with draconian bans, and especially in employing facial-recognition software to enforce it, Dolan has made both ticket scalpers and lawyers into sympathetic figures!

Still, don’t expect Dolan to back down. If he doesn’t care about bad publicity from going after the Girl Scouts, he’s not worried about offending lawyers.

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