Philips Arena accused of ‘racist’ security policy in lawsuit

A former employee suing the operator of Atlanta Hawks’ Philips Arena for racial discrimination claims black entertainers including Drake face tougher security measures at the venue than their white counterparts.

Samuel Hayes, a former security manager at the NBA team’s 21,000-capacity arena, filed a lawsuit earlier this week claiming he was sacked from his job because of his race and because he complained about security measures he maintains were selectively enforced based on race.

Hayes, who held the security role between August 2016 and April 2017, claims in the lawsuit that race, not safety, was the deciding factor for which celebrities were allowed to bypass security measures.

Black artists including Drake, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and Kanye West were denied requests to bypass metal detectors, while white performers including Axl Rose, Bon Jovi, Adele and Ariana Grande were given special dispensation.

Hayes complained in October and again in April about what he saw as racially motivated discrepancies in security enforcement, the lawsuit said.

The Hawks’ chief diversity and inclusion officer, Nzinga Shaw, told USA TODAY Sports: “Samuel Hayes is a former security manager at Philips Arena. He was terminated for poor performance and his claims are baseless. We will defend vigorously.”

The lawsuit requests a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages.

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