The Raptors and the team’s parent company, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, expressed surprise that the Knicks filed a lawsuit against them regarding alleged proprietary violations and issued a denial that the company was involved, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets via a Raptors press release.
The Knicks filed the lawsuit on Monday alleging that former employee Ikechukwu Azotam “illegally took thousands of proprietary files with him to his new position” with the Raptors. Azotam, who was hired away by Toronto this offseason, allegedly shared the proprietary information with “several members” of the team, including head coach Darko Rajakovic and player development coach Noah Lewis.
“MLSE and the Toronto Raptors received a letter from MSG on Thursday of last week bringing this complaint to our attention,” Toronto’s response reads. “MLSE responded promptly, making clear our intention to conduct an internal investigation and to fully cooperate. MLSE has not been advised that a lawsuit was being filed or has been filed following its correspondence with MSG. The company strongly denies any involvement in the matters alleged. MLSE and the Toronto Raptors will reserve further comment until this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.”
The Knicks allege that not only did Rajakovic know what was occurring but that he “recruited and used” Azotam to help him build out the operations for his coaching staff, according to The Athletic’s Fred Katz, Mike Vornukov and Eric Koreen.
The lawsuit alleges that the information Azotam forwarded to the Raptors included scouting reports, play frequency reports, a prep book, and a link to third-party licensed software. It also alleges that “Defendant Rajaković and the other Raptor Defendants recruited and used Azotam to serve as a mole within the Knicks organization to convey information that would assist the Raptors Defendants in trying to manage their team.”
The Athletic trio received a written statement from an MSG Sports spokesperson which stated that “we were left no choice but to take this action.”