In court papers filed Monday, attorneys for Curtsy said they will seek more than $10 million in damages from the Toronto Raptors for alleged intellectual property theft. They also explained why they believe the NBA commissioner Adam Silver would be compromised as the case’s arbitrator and would again ask the court – and not Silver – to decide the case.
“We have been the victim of a theft of protected and confidential files, which is a clear violation of criminal and civil law, and we remain confident that the court will rule in our favor in this matter,” an MSG Sports spokesperson said in a statement Statement Monday.
Last month, the Knicks filed a lawsuit against the Raptors and several members of their organization, including a former Knicks employee Ikechukwu Azotamalleging that Azotam “illegally took thousands of proprietary files” from the Knicks and shared them with members of the Raptors, including the new head coach Darko Rajakovic and other members of the coaching staff.
Rajakovic has publicly denied any wrongdoing.
In a response to the Knicks, lawyers for the Toronto Raptors called the lawsuit “baseless” and a “publicity stunt.”
They also want Silver’s matter to be settled.
Toronto’s lawyers cited the NBA constitution, which says the commissioner “shall have exclusive, complete, complete and final jurisdiction over all disputes involving two (2) or more members of the Association.”
In Monday’s filing, the Knicks argued that the NBA Constitution does not cover the issues raised in their lawsuit.
“Contrary to the defendants’ claims, this is not a dispute over basketball operations. There is no connection between the claims and the NBA Constitution,” the lawyers wrote in the filing Monday.
“This is a dispute over the theft of trade secrets by a disloyal employee, a scenario not contemplated by the NBA Constitution. Trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract and tort claims are the types of matters federal judges regularly hear. We are not aware that the NBA commissioner has ever handled anything similar.”
In arguing against the court sending the case to arbitration, Knick’s lawyers also questioned Silver’s neutrality as a decision-maker in the case.
They point to Silver’s relationship with the Raptors’ minority owner Larry Tannenbaumwho “currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Governors, which is the head of the body that hired (and fired) the Commissioner and sets his annual compensation.”
They go on to write that the commissioner is conflicted and is “unable” to appoint a replacement for himself as the league’s chief referee due to his relationship with Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum has served as Chairman of the Board of Governors since 2017 and was most recently elected Chairman in September 2022.
“In practice, his choices were performative. “It is the NBA – led by Commissioner Silver – that handpicks the candidate for chairman, a selection that the league presents to the Board of Governors unopposed, leaving the governors no other choice,” Knicks lawyers wrote on Monday submission. “In his capacity as chairman, Tanenbaum serves as Silver’s boss and exercises control over and has significant influence over Silver’s continued employment and salary.”
The lawyers rely on a Article in SportsBusiness Journal from 2020, in which Silver describes Tanenbaum as “not only my boss as chairman of the board of governors, but he is a role model in my life.”
The judge ultimately has the final say on whether the case moves to arbitration, according to Silver.
An NBA attorney previously informed the Knicks and Raptors that the league would allow the court to decide whether the matter should be decided in federal court or before Silver.
“Neither the NBA Constitution, the NBA Bylaws, nor the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (the three main governing documents), which expressly cover many types of disputes, contain any reference to intellectual property crimes, theft of trade secrets, conversion, or tortious interference. “or breach of contract claims between NBA teams, let alone an employer and its own employee,” Knicks lawyers wrote Monday, citing several previous rulings to support their belief.
The Knicks filed a lawsuit in late August alleging that Azotam illegally obtained confidential information such as game frequency reports, a 2022-23 season prep book, video scouting files and materials at the direction of the Raptors (Complete information on the Knicks’ claims can be found here).
Azotam informed the Knicks of an offer to work for the Raptors in July. That’s when he began “secretly forwarding confidential information from his Knicks email account to his personal Gmail account, which he then shared with the Raptors defendants.” These materials included scouting reports, game frequency reports, a prep book and a link to licensed third-party software,” the lawsuit states.
With Rajakovic serving as head coach for the first time, the lawsuit alleges the Raptors “conspired to use Azotam’s position as a current Knicks insider to pass proprietary information to the Raptors to assist them in organizing, planning and structuring.” of the new trainer and video operations staff.” .”
According to the lawsuit, the Knicks’ cybersecurity team identified the theft. Records show the Raptors accessed the stolen files more than 2,000 times.
“Defendants’ actions have caused and will continue to harm the Knicks, and if left unchecked, will cause further harm to the Knicks, the nature and extent of which may not be able to be established with certainty,” the original complaint states .
The Knicks claim that Rajaković needed the information to prepare for his first season as an NBA head coach.
“As the first NBA head coach, one would expect defendant Rajaković to bring his own organizational structure and coaching method. Given his non-traditional route to his job as head coach, defendant Rajaković apparently didn’t have one of his own, so he chose to do so.” “Exploiting the Knicks’ methods,” the lawsuit says.
The Raptors’ lawyers have until early December to file a response to the Knicks’ latest filing.