“The New York Knicks have sued the Toronto Raptors and several members of their organization, including a former Knicks employee, after the former employee illegally took thousands of proprietary files with him to his new position with the Toronto Raptors,” a spokesperson for Madison Square Garden Sports said in a statement obtained by Heavy Sports via email.
“These files include confidential information such as play frequency reports, a prep book for the 2022-23 season, video scouting files and materials and more. Given the clear violation of our employment agreement, criminal and civil law, we were left no choice but to take this action,” the statement continued.
According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York on Monday, the former Knicks employee was identified as Ikechukwu Azotam.
Azotam was one of the defendants, along with new Raptors head coach Darko Rajaković, player development coach Noah Lewis and several unidentified members of the Raptors organization, referred to as John Does.
Who Is Ike Azotam?
Azotam, a former professional basketball player, joined the Knicks organization in October 2020 and initially served as an assistant video coordinator whose responsibility included planning, editing and producing video packaging used by the Knicks coaching staff for scouting, recruiting and game preparation purposes.
In August 2021, Azotam was promoted to director of video/analytics/player development assistant, a position he held until August 14, 2023.
The Knicks alleged that Azotam secretly forwarded proprietary information from his Knicks email account to his personal Gmail account in late July after informing the team of the Raptors’ job offer.
The lawsuit claims that Rajaković, a first-time head coach, and the other Raptors defendants “conspired to use Azotam’s position as a current Knicks insider to funnel proprietary information to the Raptors to help them organize, plan, and structure the new coaching and video operations staff.”
According to the lawsuit, they have also directed Azotam to misuse his access to the Knicks’ subscription to Synergy Sports to create and then transfer to the Raptors defendants over 3,000 files consisting of film information and data.
On August 11, 2023, the Knicks alleged Azotam forwarded from his Knicks email account to his Raptors email account the scouting report for their final regular-season game against the Indiana Pacers and an advanced scouting report of the Denver Nuggets. He also forwarded several confidential documents to his personal Gmail account, such as the Knicks’ prep book for the 2022-23 season, and a play frequency report for the Dallas Mavericks that was shared to the Raptors defendants.
The Knicks claimed that their insider threat security team identified the theft on August 15, with records showing that the stolen files were accessed over 2,000 times by the Raptors defendants.
Ian Begley of SNY was the first to report about the Knicks’ lawsuit claim.
Raptors Respond to Knicks’ Lawsuit
The Raptors issued a statement responding to the Knicks’ lawsuit.
“MLSE and the Toronto Raptors received a letter from MSG on Thursday of last week bringing this complaint to our attention. MLSE responded promptly, making clear our intention to conduct an internal investigation and to fully cooperate,” the statement said via The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov.
“MLSE has not been advised that a lawsuit was being filed or has been filed following its correspondence with MSG. The company strongly denies any involvement in the matters alleged. MLSE and the Toronto Raptors will reserve further comment until this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties,” the statement continued.