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Knicks seek more than $10 million in damages from Raptors, say Silver should not officiate

In a court filing Monday, the New York Knicks said they are seeking more than $10 million in damages from the Toronto Raptors in a lawsuit alleging the theft of thousands of files confidential, and argued that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should not officiate. the dispute in part because of his close relationship with Raptors Governor Larry Tanenbaum.

The Knicks’ filing, obtained by ESPN, follows the Raptors’ Oct. 16 motion to dismiss the Knicks’ original complaint and have Silver arbitrate the dispute.

In Monday’s filing, the Knicks also argued that Tanenbaum’s position as chairman of the NBA Board of Governors would create a conflict of interest because “Tanenbaum is Silver’s boss and exercises control and strong influence the continuation of Silver’s employment and salary. Additionally, the Knicks highlighted a friendship between Silver and Tanenbaum.

“Among other things, Tanenbaum has been described as ‘a close ally of Commissioner Adam Silver,'” the Knicks wrote. “Silver himself described Tanenbaum as ‘not only my boss as chairman of the board of governors, but he is truly a role model in my life.’ If Silver were to preside over the current conflict, he would arbitrate a case for his boss and ally.”

The Raptors declined to comment.

Monday’s filing marked the first instance by the Knicks outlining potential monetary damages since they filed their initial complaint in August in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

That complaint accused former Knicks employee Ikechukwu Azotam, who worked for the Knicks from 2020 to 2023, of sending the Raptors thousands of confidential files, including game frequency reports, a preparation book for 2022-23 season, video reconnaissance files, opposition research. and more – after the team began recruiting him to join their organization in the summer of 2023.

The Knicks also accused Azotam — who worked for the Knicks as an assistant video coordinator and then as director of video/analytics/player development assistant — of violating a confidentiality clause in an employment contract and alleged that members of the Raptors “directed Azotam’s actions and/or knowingly benefited from Azotam’s unlawful acts.”

Additionally, the Knicks alleged that the Raptors “conspired to use Azotam’s position as a current Knicks insider to pass proprietary information to the Raptors to help them organize, plan and structure new Knicks personnel.” training and video exploitation,” the lawsuit states.

Raptors coach Darko Rajaković, player development coach Noah Lewis and 10 “unknown” Raptors employees were also listed as defendants in the Knicks’ lawsuit.

At the Raptors’ media day on October 2, Raptors president Masai Ujiri addressed the lawsuit, saying: “There was one time where a team sued an NBA team. One time. Go figure. “

In an Oct. 16 filing, the Raptors called the Knicks’ lawsuit “meritless” and a “PR stunt,” while also calling on Silver to arbitrate the dispute. The Raptors have made this request several times since August.

In fact, about a week after the Knicks filed the initial complaint, the Raptors sent an email to NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan asking Silver to assert jurisdiction over the dispute between the teams, in accordance with regulation “d” of Article 24 of the NBA Constitution. These regulations stipulate: “The commissioner will have exclusive, full, complete and final jurisdiction over any dispute involving two (2) or more members of the Association. »

But the Knicks — at the time and even more forcefully in Monday’s filing — objected to Silver settling the dispute. In a September 9 email to legal counsel representing both teams, Buchanan said the league would comply with further proceedings in Manhattan’s Southern District Court “to determine whether this dispute should be resolved in federal court or in front (Silver). “

In another email on September 19, Buchanan repeated the league’s position to legal representatives of both teams.

In their filing Monday opposing any arbitration of Silver in the case, the Knicks said there is no provision in the NBA constitution that addresses intellectual property theft or protection of property intellectuality of a team.

“Contrary to Defendants’ assertions, this is not a dispute regarding basketball operations,” the Knicks wrote. “There is no nexus between the claims and the NBA Constitution. This is a dispute over the theft of trade secrets by a disloyal employee, a scenario not contemplated by the NBA Constitution. Misappropriation trade secrets, breach of contract and tort claims are “the types of issues presented regularly before federal judges. We don’t know if the NBA commissioner has ever dealt with anything similar. In matters of contract formation, the arbitration provision cannot be applied to the plaintiff’s claims. “

The Knicks highlighted the limits on Silver’s power to impose monetary penalties under Article 24 of the NBA constitution, which states the commissioner cannot impose a penalty of more than $10 million. Additionally, the Knicks pointed out that the league constitution does not allow Silver to award legal fees in disputes between two teams.

“As the Knicks intend to prove at trial, the damages exceed $10 million,” the Knicks said in their Monday filing, adding that they also intend to seek attorneys’ fees.

An MSG spokesperson released the following statement to ESPN on Monday: “We were victims of the theft of proprietary and confidential files, which constitutes a blatant violation of criminal and civil law, and we remain confident that the Court will resolve in our favor in this matter.”

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