A former ING Financial Services trader sued the owners of Madison Square Garden for booting him from the arena last year after he yelled “Carmelo, you stink” during a New York Knicks game, a move he said cost him his job.
Anthony Rotondi, 43, said in his complaint that he and his supervisor took two clients to the Jan. 7, 2014, game and sat in ING’s seats about four rows behind the basket, near the Knicks’s bench. As the Knicks surrendered a 14-point lead to the Detroit Pistons, Rotondi said he yelled at forward Carmelo Anthony in the game’s final minute and was escorted from his seat with 6.7 seconds left, then ejected from the arena.
Madison Square Garden “bullied” Rotondi by detaining him, having him arrested and reporting the incident to ING, said his lawyer, Eric C. Weissman.
“They went above and beyond what they are entitled to do,” Weissman said in a phone interview. “Every fan who goes to these games should be worried. They could end up losing their job.”
The Knicks wound up winning the game, 89-85, and charges against Rotondi were dismissed, Weissman said. Still, the day after the game, an arena employee contacted ING and reported that Rotondi was disorderly, used vulgar and abusive language, became abusive with security and refused to produce his ticket or leave when ejected.
“His life has been destroyed,” Weissman said.
In Tuesday’s lawsuit, Rotondi accused the Garden of defamation, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress. He earlier went to court seeking names of arena employees and security guards who tossed him from the game.
“We do not welcome anyone into the building who behaves in an inappropriate and hostile manner, and those who behave that way are subject to ejection,” Madison Square Garden said in a statement. “After reviewing video of the incident and talking to people who witnessed it, it is perfectly clear that this lawsuit is frivolous.”
Elaine Clark, a spokeswoman for ING Groep NV in New York, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the case.
Howard Lorber, a Knicks season ticket holder for 20 years and chairman of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, said in a phone interview he was at the game and complained to security about Rotondi’s heckling, which he said made players upset. Lorber has courtside seats.
“I heard him screaming to Carmelo Anthony and yelling at him and using some vocal language,” he said. “Carmelo stopped, and they were looking at each other.”
Rotondi missed a dramatic finish.
Anthony scored a game-high 34 points, going 6-for-7 from 3- point range. New York took a 73-58 lead into the final quarter, during which Anthony scored seven points, grabbed two rebounds and committed an offensive foul. He sealed the win, hitting two free throws with three seconds left.
The Knicks went 37-45 during the season, missing the playoffs for the first time in four years. This season, the team is 5-32 after tying a franchise record Monday with its 12th straight loss. Anthony is hobbled by a sore left knee.
The case is Rotondi v. Madison Square Garden Co., 150097-2015, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).
With assistance from Chris Dolmetsch in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
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