The Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks have proven to be quite fierce rivals on the court, and now some of that rancor is spilling out into the off-court world. The Knicks are making their Canadian rivals lawyer up, with some serious allegations of theft being levied against them.
The Knicks allege that Ike Azotam, who left New York to take a position with the Raptors, took proprietary information relating to how the Knicks play and gave it to his new employers. The Knicks seem to think this theft of trade secrets amounts to deliberate sabotage.
Toronto, as one would expect, thinks that James Dolan isn’t operating in good faith. In fact, they are trying to get the lawsuit dismissed, calling it “baseless” and mocking the entire legal procedure as “public relations” on behalf of the Knicks.
A lawyer for the Raptors’ ownership group claimed the lawsuit “has no business wasting judicial resources given the all-encompassing arbitration clause in the parties’ governing agreement.” The lawyer also said the lawsuit’s goal is “to elicit negative press attention against the Named Defendants rather than the pursuit of valid claims.”
Toronto Raptors trying to dismiss “baseless” Knicks lawsuit.
In response to Toronto’s very pointed salvo, a spokesperson for Madison Square Garden Sports (MSGS) said that what Azotam did was “in clear violation of criminal and civil law.” The Knicks seemed prepared to litigate, while MLSE think this is just a money grab and a chance to get some catchy headlines.
Insiders have speculated that even if this lawsuit has some legs and the Raptors end up getting penalized, the punishment is likely not going to be too destabilizing. Toronto could end up getting slapped with the loss of a very distant second-round pick or some inconsequential fines.
Toronto’s power structure has been unwilling to engage with this lawsuit seriously. Masai Ujiri seemed to be very dismissive of the case when asked about it in the preseason press availability, and head coach Darko Rajakovic said that he was “surprised” by the whole ordeal.
Far be it from me to suggest legal advice to either party in this scenario, but it seems like this will eventually resolve itself without too much bombast in the courtroom. New York thinks the Raptors were caught red-handed, while Toronto appears to be very dismissive.
Update: Raptors Rapture received a statement from a spokesperson for Madison Square Garden Sports pertaining to the lawsuit
"As we have previously stated, given the theft of proprietary and confidential files and clear violation of criminal and civil law, we were left with no choice but to take this to the federal court system and are confident the justice system will agree."