A former security manager at Atlanta’s Philips Arena has filed a lawsuit claiming that black entertainers are treated with harsher security measures during events than white performers. He says that his complaints about discrimination was the reason he was fired from his job.

via Washington Post

In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, Samuel R. Hayes accused Philips Arena operator ATL Hawks LLC and one of his superiors at the facility of routinely making security concessions for white performers that they did not offer to their black counterparts.

Hayes, who is black, managed an all-black security staff of about 40 people and handled security operations for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and day-to-day events from August 2016 until April, according to the lawsuit.

During that time, white artists such as Adele, Radiohead and Bon Jovi were allowed to bypass metal detectors and other security measures, Hayes alleges. Black artists such as Drake, Future and Katt Williams were denied such requests, he says.

Hayes says he was abruptly fired after he and his staff complained repeatedly about the practices. His termination, he says, “was based on race, including stereotypes, myths, assumptions, and preconceived notions of blacks (especially black men) as ‘angry’ and ‘aggressive.’”

The Atlanta Hawks’ chief diversity and inclusion officer, Nzinga Shaw, told the Associated Press Thursday that the claims were baseless and that Hayes was fired for poor performance. “We will defend vigorously,” she said.

Throughout his employment, the lawsuit says, Hayes noticed that security measures were enforced based on race. Just weeks after he started his job, several staff members told him that security was enforced on racial lines and had been for a long time, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit names as a defendant Jason Parker, vice president of customer service and operations and Hayes’s direct boss. Hayes says security staff complained that “extra tight security” at black shows with black entertainers and denied black entertainers the same security privileges as their white entertainers.

“It was obvious,” the lawsuit says, “that race (not safety) determined which entertainers and celebrities were permitted to bypass security protocol, and which entertainers and celebrities were not.”


Photo credit: Getty Images