May 22, 2024


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Knicks sues former Raptors employee, cites disclosure of ‘private information’

Knicks sues former Raptors employee, cites disclosure of ‘private information’

The New York Knicks on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Toronto Raptors, members of the Raptors organization and a former Knicks employee who they allege “illegally purchased and then disclosed information about them” to their Atlantic Division rival.

According to a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed in US District Court in Manhattan and obtained by ESPN, the Knicks stated that Ikechukwu Azotam, who worked with the Knicks from 2020 to 2023, sent the Raptors thousands of confidential files — including play frequency reports, and a primer for the 2022-23 season, video scouting files, opposition research and more – after the team began recruiting him to join their organization in the summer of 2023.

Nix accuses Azotame—who worked with the Knicks as assistant video coordinator, then director of video/analytics/player development assistant—of violating a confidentiality clause in an employment agreement and alleged that the Raptors “directed Azutham’s actions and/or knowingly benefited from Azutham’s wrongful actions.”

Further, the Knicks alleged that the Raptors “conspired to use Azotam’s website as an existing Knicks insider to funnel proprietary information to the Raptors to help them organize, plan, and structure their new coaching staff and video operations,” the suit states.

Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic, player development coach Noah Lewis, and ten “unknown” Raptors employees are also listed as defendants in the Knicks lawsuit.

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In a statement from a spokesperson for MSG Sports, the Knicks said, in part, “Due to the apparent violation of our employment agreement, criminal and civil law, we had no choice but to take this action.”

Raptors owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and the team responded to the lawsuit in a joint statement.

MLSE and the Toronto Raptors have received a letter from [Madison Square Garden] On Thursday of last week, this complaint was brought to our attention,” the statement stated. MLSE responded promptly, stating our intention to conduct an internal investigation and to cooperate fully. MLSE has not been notified that a lawsuit has been or has been filed following its correspondence with MSG. The company vehemently denies any involvement in the alleged matters. MLSE and the Toronto Raptors will reserve further comment until this matter is resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.”

A call and text message to a phone number listed on Azotam was not immediately returned. An NBA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Under federal law, defendants have 21 days to file a response to the lawsuit.

In July 2023, Azuttam informed Nix that the Raptors had offered him a position and that he intended to take it the following year, Nix says, claiming that around the same time “Azutam began secretly sending ownership information from his Nix email to his personal Gmail account, which He then shared it with the defendants in the Raptors case,” according to the lawsuit.

Knicks also alleges that members of the Raptors “directed Azotam to misuse his access to Knicks’ subscription to Synergy Sports to create and then transfer to the Raptors defendants more than 3,000 files consisting of movie information and data.”

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Nix became aware of the matter on August 15, 2023, one day after Azotam’s last day as an employee of Nix, the lawsuit says. The Nix family alleged that Azotam “illegally shared 3,358 video files and that the stolen files were accessed more than 2,000 times by the defendants in the Raptors case,” the suit states.

Among other things, the Knicks are seeking unspecified damages to be determined; that the Raptors refrain from using confidential information obtained from the Knicks and that “Azutam could not have any benefit as a result of his embezzlement and wrongful actions,” according to the lawsuit.

News of the lawsuit was first reported by SportsNet New York.