The New York Knicks sued the Toronto Raptors, claiming a former Knicks employee stole scouting reports and other proprietary information after getting a job offer at the rival National Basketball Association team.
(Bloomberg) — The New York Knicks sued the Toronto Raptors, claiming a former Knicks employee stole scouting reports and other proprietary information after getting a job offer at the rival National Basketball Association team.
The Knicks filed suit Monday against the Raptors, the Toronto team’s head coach, Darko Rajaković, and the former employee, Ikechukwu Azotam, in Manhattan federal court. The New York team claims Azotam, who worked in its video analytics and player development groups, began stealing information in early August to aid novice coach Rajaković in setting up his coaching and video staffs.
“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 Knicks said in their complaint. “Knicks’ records show that the stolen files were accessed over 2,000 times by the Raptors defendants.”
The Raptors and their parent company, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., said in a statement Monday that they received a letter on Thursday bringing the Knicks’ allegations to their attention.
“MLSE responded promptly, making clear our intention to conduct an internal investigation and to fully cooperate,” the company said in the statement. “The company strongly denies any involvement in the matters alleged.”
In addition to sending the Raptors scouting reports on the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks, Azotam also sent play frequency reports, a prep book and a link to his account with Synergy Sports Technology LLC, a third-party video analytics company whose software the Knicks use to edit and analyze game films, according to the lawsuit. The Knicks claim Azotam was specifically instructed to collect thousands of video clips of Raptors players.
The Knicks claim their insider threat security team discovered the thefts last week. They’re seeking unspecified damages and a court order forcing the defendants to stop using any of the information they claim was stolen.
According to the suit, Azotam worked for the Knicks from October 2020 until this month. By the time he left to work for the Raptors, Azotam oversaw a team that edited and produced game videos used by the Knicks’ coaches for scouting, recruiting and preparing for upcoming games, according to the Knicks.
The Knicks claim the Toronto team began recruiting Azotam in June for next season. In late July he told the Knicks he’d be leaving to join the Raptors and began secretly sending information from his Knicks email account to his personal email, the team said in its complaint. Later he emailed data to his new Raptors email account.
The case is New York Knicks LLC v. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, 23-cv-07394, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
(Updates with Raptors’ statement. A previous version of this story corrected a name spelling in the second paragraph.)
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