A group of black entertainers including Kanye West, Drake, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Cedric the Entertainer were victimized by the discriminatory practices of the Atlanta Hawks security staff, according to a lawsuit brought by a former member of the security team.
In his lawsuit, brought in federal court in Georgia on Monday, Samuel R. Hayes III says that he was hired as manager of security operations in August 2016, handling the day-to-day security at Philips Arena and for the Hawks. The suit says that Hayes began to notice that security practices vacillated along racial lines.
“Throughout Plaintiff’s employment at the Atlanta Hawks, Plaintiff noticed that the security measures were enforced, or not enforced, based on race,” the lawsuit, which identifies Hayes as black, says.
Over and over again, the suit states, black entertainers were subjected to full security measures, while white artists got a pass. In August 2016, for instance, Drake and Future were denied when they asked to bypass metal detectors, while a week later, at an AC/DC show, Axl Rose was allowed to bypass them.
The lawsuit goes on to list numerous alleged examples; while Combs, West and Cedric the Entertainer were all shot down when they asked to bypass the metal detectors, white entertainers such as Amy Schumer, Ariana Grande and Adele were given a pass.
According to the suit, Hayes complained, and was told, “white acts bring in more money.”
The suit also says that Hayes was warned that people perceive him as “aggressive” because he is “a large black man with an intimidating voice and commanding presence,” and was advised to “watch [his] tone” when talking to others.
Hayes goes on to allege that he was fired in April for trumped-up reasons, in retaliation against him.
Alleging race discrimination and retaliation, the suit seeks unspecified damages.
In a statement to TheWrap on Thursday, the Hawks’ chief diversity and inclusion officer Nzinga Shaw denied the allegations in the lawsuit.
“Samuel Hayes is a former security manager at Philips Arena,” Shaw said. “He was terminated for poor performance and his claims are baseless. We will defend vigorously.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.