ATLANTA (CN) – A former security guard for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks claims in court that he was fired because he is black and complained about racial disparities in their security measures.
In a federal lawsuit filed July 3 in Atlanta, Samuel Hayes says he was disturbed by the Hawks’ practice of requiring black performers to go through metal detectors as they entered the team’s Philips Arena, while white performers were allowed to bypass security.
Hayes claims that on Aug. 26, 2016, security personnel at the area denied rappers Drake and Future’s request to bypass the metal detectors prior to their performing at concerts.
He says later that week white musicians Axl Rose, of Guns N Roses, and Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, were allowed to forego a security check.
Hayes says a number of his coworkers complained to him about the “extra tight security” was required for black shows.
“As Plaintiff continued working at the Atlanta Hawks, it was obvious to Plaintiff that race (not safety) determined which entertainers and celebrities were permitted to bypass security protocol, and which entertainers and celebrities were not,” the complaint says.
The lawsuit alleges that when rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs performed at Philips Arena on Sept. 8, 2016, his request to bypass security was denied. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who is black, attended the concert but was denied his request to be dropped off at the media entrance, which white entertainers were previously allowed to do.
According to the complaint, four days later, rapper Kanye West’s request to bypass the metal detectors was also denied. Later that month, black comedians Cedric The Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and D.L. Hughley were also required to go through the metal detectors.
The lawsuit claims that in October 2016 white comedian Amy Schumer was allowed to bypass security, but Hayes denied her bodyguard’s request to have Schumer dropped off at the media entrance.
Hayes was later reprimanded for denying the request, and around that time, white singer Adele was allowed to bypass security.
Defendant Jason “Parker warned Plaintiff that people perceive him as ‘aggressive’ because he is ‘a large black man with an intimidating voice and commanding presence,’ and advised Plaintiff to ‘watch [his] tone’ when conversing with others,” the lawsuit alleges.
According to the complaint, Hayes complained about the racial disparity during the meeting. Parker later gave Hayes a written warning for “negative interactions.”
When rappers 2 Chainz, Jeezy and The Dream performed at the arena in December 2016, their requests to bypass the metal detectors were denied, but later several white WWE performers were granted special privileges.
The lawsuit alleges the discriminatory practices continued in the ensuing months, and Hayes again confronted Parker about the racial disparity.
“In response, Parker stated that ‘hip hop acts draw a different crowd, and the white acts bring in more money,’” the complaint says.
Hayes was fired on April 28 by Parker, who allegedly told him he was being fired for suspending a staff member for insubordination and firing another for sleeping on the job without consulting Human Resources.
“Parker communicated with plaintiff in a demeaning and derogatory way because of plaintiff’s race, and made statements that clearly indicated racial animus,” the lawsuit claims.
Hayes is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He is represented by Louise Smith.
Representatives of the defendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.