A former Atlanta Hawks security manager is suing the team alleging black entertainers were subjected to tougher security measures than white entertainers and that his firing was racially motivated.
The suit claims Hawks officials:
- Routinely rejected requests from black entertainers to bypass security measures while regularly granting similar requests from white artists,
- Rejected a request for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to be dropped off at the media entrance prior to an event "even though the Atlanta Hawks had granted the same request when made by white entertainers and celebrities" and
- Complained that Reed “thinks he’s a celebrity,” that he “has this attitude that he deserves special privileges”when attending events at Philips Arena and “thinks he owns the place.”
A statement from Reed's office said he has "has never requested special privileges or treatment at Philips Arena; accordingly, the claims concerning Mayor Reed made in this lawsuit are totally and completely false."
The mayor's entire statement is below.
The team also disputes the claims Samuel L. Hayes III's enumerated in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta against the Hawks and vice president of customer service and operations Jason Parker.
“Samuel Hayes is a former security manager at Philips Arena. He was terminated for poor performance and his claims are baseless,” Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Nzinga Shaw said in a statement emailed to the AJC. “We will defend vigorously.”
Hayes seeks unspecified "compensatory and punitive damages."
Much of the 25-page filing focuses on the different security measures Hayes said black and white entertainers were subjected to. Hawks officials, the suit said, "demanded 'extra tight security' at black shows, and denied black entertainers the same security privileges they granted to white entertainers...it was obvious that race (not safety) determined which entertainers and celebrities were permitted to bypass security protocol, and which entertainers and celebrities were not."
Examples Hayes cited:
"On Oct. 28 and 29, 2016, Adele (who is white) performed at Philips Arena. Adele’s security detail requested to access Philips Arena through the loading dock and to park their vehicles in the loading dock for the duration of each show. Those requests were granted."
"On Dec. 10, 2016, 2 Chainz, Jeezy and The Dream (all of whom are black) performed at the V-103 Winterfest Concert at Philips Arena. All three entertainers requested to bypass security. Their requests were denied and heightened security measures were enforced at that event."
"On Dec. 29, 2016, at the WWE Live Tour at Philips Arena, several white performers requested certain security concessions, including special parking privileges, which were granted. On Dec. 31, 2016, at the Old School Hip Hop Fest at Philips Arena, several black entertainers requested security concessions. Their requests were denied and heightened security measures were enforced at that event."
"Throughout Plaintiff’s employment at the Atlanta Hawks, Plaintiff noticed that the security measures were enforced, or not enforced, based on race," the suit states. "Defendants fired Plaintiff because he repeatedly complained that the Atlanta Hawks’ security protocol was disparately enforced based on race and to the detriment of blacks."
Here's Reed's full statement:
"Mayor Reed has never requested special privileges or treatment at Philips Arena; accordingly, the claims concerning Mayor Reed made in this lawsuit are totally and completely false.
The Executive Protection Unit of the Atlanta Police Department sets the security protocol for the Mayor's travel around the city, including to special events at venues like Philips Arena. This unit reports directly to the Chief Erika Shields, who is responsible for ensuring the safety of Mayor Reed and his family.
And as a reminder, the City of Atlanta, through the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, is the majority owner of Philips Arena.
You don't have to be a professional media critic to notice that the AJC has been increasing its celebrity coverage for years at the expense of its traditional newsroom. We're not surprised to see the same approach taken with this blog post.
This story - specifically Mayor Reed's photo and placement at the center of it - is nothing more than clickbait and represents precisely what is wrong with the paper's approach to covering the City."