Raptors file motion to dismiss Knicks’ lawsuit

TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors have asked for the New York Knicks lawsuit against them to be dismissed.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors, filed the motion for dismissal in New York’s Southern District on Monday. MLSE filed the legal documents on behalf of the NBA club, head coach Darko Rajakovic and 12 other individual defendants.

Legal documents show that MLSE is asking the court to put the matter before an arbiter, dismiss the lawsuit, or stay the legal proceedings until that proposed arbitration is resolved.

“This baseless lawsuit is a public relations stunt by the Knicks,” reads the preliminary statement of the filing. “It has no business wasting judicial resources given the all-encompassing arbitration clause in the parties’ governing agreement.

“Unless they reverse course and accept the jurisdiction of the NBA Commissioner as the parties agreed, the Knicks have chosen a forum that would likely not even be able to commence substantive proceedings until after the upcoming NBA season concludes and not ultimately resolve the dispute until 2025 at the earliest.”

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Spokespeople for MLSE and the Raptors offered no comment on the new motion or the lawsuit itself.

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The Knicks filed suit against the Raptors, Rajakovic and former Knicks scouting employee Ikechukwu Azotam on Aug. 22, alleging the defendants conspired to steal thousands of videos and other scouting secrets in July and August.

The Knicks are seeking unspecified damages and a ban on the further spread of their trade secrets.

They claim that their intellectual property — scouting and play frequency reports, a prep book and a link to valuable software — has been downloaded thousands of times by Raptors employees.

The lawsuit identified Azotam as the alleged mole. Since August 2021 Azotam had directed the planning, organizing and distribution of all video scouting responsibilities for the Knicks’ coaching staff.

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The Knicks allege Rajakovic, hired as Toronto’s new head coach in June, player development coach Noah Lewis and 10 unidentified Raptors employees received proprietary information and sometimes directed Azotam to misuse his access to Knicks information.

The Raptors’ motion filed on Monday notes that, if the Knicks intention is to prevent the use of its intellectual property, then going through the NBA’s arbitration process would be faster and more effective.

Raptors team president Masai Ujiri was asked about the lawsuit at a media day on Oct. 2.

“There has been one time a team has sued a team in the NBA,” said Ujiri. “One time. Go figure.”

His dismissal of the case was echoed by MLSE’s filing on Monday.

“Suits among members of the same sports league are virtually unheard of,” reads the filing. “This is because leagues like the NBA adopt constitutions that vest in their commissioners exclusive, full, complete, final and binding authority to resolve disputes among members.

“They are among the most comprehensive arbitration clauses anywhere.”

A spokesman from Madison Square Garden Sports, the owners of the Knicks, said the organization still believes taking MLSE to court is the correct course of action.

“As we have previously stated, given the theft of proprietary and confidential files and clear violation of criminal and civil law, we were left no choice but to take this to federal court and are confident the judicial system will agree,” said the statement.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2023.

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