A former security guard at Philips Arena and for the Atlanta Hawks is suing the NBA organization and his former supervisor for unlawful employment practices and alleges he was fired because of his race.
Samuel Hayes III filed the civil lawsuit on July 3. The lawsuit includes a list of artists that performed at Philips Arena and alleges they received different treatment related to security based on their race. For example, Drake and Future were subject to going through metal detectors and security checks while white artists like AC/DC and Bon Jovi were allowed to bypass security, according to the lawsuit.
One of the claims made by Hayes in the suit was on Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. It stated that Hayes' superior, Jason Parker, wouldn't give Mayor Reed a security bypass. Parker is the Vice President of Customer Service and Operations. Hayes claims he enforced different security measures for artists and concerts based on race.
"Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (who is black) attended the Bad Boy Family Reunion concert as a ticket holder. Days before the concert, a member of the Mayor’s security detail met with Parker to find out where the Mayor would be sitting during the concert. [Hayes] was present during that meeting. When the man requested permission to drop off the Mayor at the Media Entrance, Parker denied the request even though the Atlanta Hawks had granted the same request when made by white entertainers and celebrities," the lawsuit stated.
"After the meeting, Parker vented that the Mayor 'thinks he’s a celebrity,' that every time the Mayor comes in the building he 'has this attitude that he deserves special privileges,' and that the Mayor 'thinks he owns the place.' "
The Mayor's office confirmed Reed went to the concert, but denied he asked for special treatment at security.
"Mayor Reed has never requested special privileges or treatment at Philips Arena; accordingly, the claims concerning Mayor Reed made in this lawsuit are totally and completely false," a spokesperson told 11Alive.
"The Executive Protection Unit of the Atlanta Police Department sets the security protocol for the Mayor’s travel around the city, including to special events at venues like Philips Arena. This unit reports directly to the Chief Erika Shields, who is responsible for ensuring the safety of Mayor Reed and his family. And as a reminder, the City of Atlanta, through the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, is the majority owner of Philips Arena."
Hayes' lawyers sent 11Alive a statement on Saturday regarding the Mayor's Office's comments."First, the Complaint doesn’t allege that Mayor Kasim Reed personally requested to enter Philips Arena through the media entrance. It alleges that a member of his security detail made that request. Whether the Mayor directed that individual to make the request, or even knew that the request had been made, isn’t relevant to this lawsuit whatsoever. Further, as the Complaint states, Mr. Hayes has personal knowledge that such a request was made, as he was physically present at the meeting wherein the request was made."Second, the Mayor’s office confirmed that the Mayor was at the concert. Third, the statement made by the Mayor’s office concerning the nature of the Mayor’s security detail corroborates what we already know. Fourth, the fact that the City of Atlanta is the majority owner of Phillips Arena isn’t relevant to this lawsuit. The ATL Hawks, LLC lease the arena, control its daily operations, and implemented the discriminatory practices set forth in the Complaint. Fifth, the vitriol displayed by the Mayor’s office towards Mr. Hayes and his counsel for setting forth facts within Mr. Hayes’s personal knowledge...was unwarranted. Finally, and most importantly, this case isn’t about the Mayor, it’s about the ATL Hawks, LLC and Jason Parker."
The Atlanta Hawks sent a statement out on Thursday.
“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," Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Nzinga Shaw said.
The lawsuit states Hayes was repeatedly warned about his tone when dealing with others. However, Parker repeatedly called him a "large, angry black man," according to the lawsuit. After repeatedly expressing concerns about the different security practices based on race and trying to set up a meeting with the Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Scott Wilkinson, Hayes was fired.
The lawsuit claims he was fired for not going to Human Resources before firing two employees who were sleeping on the job. The suit said Hayes had fired people before and had not been punished for not consulting with HR.
The Hawks have faced multiple race related issues. Former owner Bruce Levenson sent out an email about whites being uncomfortable at the Arena, which forced him to eventually sell the team. Former General Manager Danny Ferry was caught reading a racist scouring report on Luol Deng. Another former general manager, Wes Wilcox, made a controversial comment about his wife, who is African American, last season.