The Raptors have filed a motion in New York to dismiss the Knicks‘ lawsuit, which alleges that former employee Ikechukwu Azotam “illegally took thousands of proprietary files with him to his new position” with Toronto, according to Mike Vorkunov, Eric Koreen and Fred Katz of The Athletic.
In the motion to dismiss, Toronto called the lawsuit “baseless” and “a public relations stunt by the Knicks,” per The Athletic.
Azotam, head coach Darko Rajakovic, development coach Noah Lewis and are among several defendants in the lawsuit.
“As the Knicks surely expected and presumably intended, the filing of this lawsuit — virtually unprecedented between two members of the NBA or, frankly, two teams in any North American professional sports league — generated significant publicity,” the motion to dismiss states. “The effect of such a public accusation of wrongdoing in federal court was to tarnish the stellar reputations of Messrs. Rajaković, Lewis and Azotam, as well as MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the Raptors’ parent company), and to chill present and future Knicks’ employees from their pursuit of employment with other members.”
To support the claim that the Knicks were seeking publicity rather than something legitimate, the Raptors put out a timeline of events in their filing, The Athletic’s trio writes. On August 18, a day after the Knicks told the Raptors about the allegations, Toronto said it had no interest in the “proprietary” data that Azotam took and would cooperate with New York. The Knicks filed the lawsuit the next business day, August 21.
The Knicks alleged that Rajakovic “recruited and used” Azotam as a “mole.” However, the Raptors’ filing says those allegations are “false and overblown” and that the data was not confidential, but rather “publicly available information.”
“These were not the Knicks’ team and player statistics, play frequency data, player tendencies or play calls, but rather those of other NBA teams — including particularly the Raptors’ own game film — compiled from video of their games accessible to all NBA teams (and, indeed, the general public). In other words, they were far from confidential, let alone trade secrets. The Knicks surely know this,” the motion states, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.
“As we have previously stated, given the theft of proprietary and confidential files and clear violation of criminal and civil law, we were left no choice but to take this to federal court and are confident the judicial system will agree,” a Knicks spokesperson said in reply to the filing.
According to Holmes, the Raptors believe that the dispute should be handled by commissioner Adam Silver instead of a federal judge, pursuant to a bylaw in the NBA’s constitution that reads, “The Commissioner shall have exclusive, full, complete, and final jurisdiction of any dispute involving two (2) or more Members of the Association.”
Obviously the Knicks disagreed, arguing the NBA doesn’t have “exclusive authority over criminal matters.” NBA general counsel Rich Buchanan later told the two teams that the league would abide by the judge’s decision on if the lawsuit should be decided by the NBA or the court.