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NBA’s Atlanta Hawks Sued by Employee for Race Discrimination and Retaliation

Emanuel Shirazi

Samuel Hayes, a former Atlanta Hawks security manager, claims that black performers and entertainers were subjected to more intense security procedures than their white counterparts. He also claims he was fired because of his race and complaints of race based preferences. Not only is he filing a suit against the NBA basketball team but also against the team’s vice president of customer service and security. Hayes is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Here is what we know about the allegations:

  • The plaintiff claims that, while white performers were frequently allowed to bypass security measures, black performers were not.
  • When Adele (white) requested to access the arena through the loading dock, her requests were fulfilled. When 2 Chainz, Jeezy, and The Dream (all black) requested to bypass security, their requests were rejected. When several WWE performers (white) asked for special parking privileges, their requests were fulfilled. When several black entertainers at the Old School Hop Fest requested similar privileges, their requests were rejected.
  • When the black mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, asked if he could be dropped off at the media entrance, his request was denied (even though white entertainers were frequently allowed to do so). Because of Reed’s “special requests”, Hayes claims that he heard complaints such as “he thinks he’s a celebrity” and “he thinks he owns the place.”

Officials at Kasim Reed’s office deny that Reed requested for special privileges from Phillips Arena. They even go as far to say that the “the claims concerning Mayor Reed are totally and completely false.”

The Atlanta Hawks team claims that the plaintiff wasn’t fired because of his race, but because of poor performance. According to Hayes, he was fired for repeatedly complaining about the Hawks’ racially charged security measures.

Do you think Hayes’ claims have merit? Or do you think he’s simply taking advantage of his situation?

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