The New York Knicks have filed a lawsuit against the Toronto Raptors and are requesting that NBA commissioner Adam Silver not arbitrate the case due to his friendship with Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum. The Knicks are seeking more than $10 million in damages from the Canadian franchise.
The suit was filed as a response to Toronto’s motion to dismiss the Knicks’ initial lawsuit. The Raptors had also requested Silver to act as an arbitrator in the case instead of it going to court.
The Knicks argue in their filing that Tanenbaum’s position as chairman of the NBA’s board of governors creates a conflict of interest for Silver. They claim that Tanenbaum has control over and heavily influences Silver’s employment and salary.
Furthermore, the Knicks point to the close relationship between Tanenbaum and Silver as a reason for the commissioner to distance himself from the case. They cite Tanenbaum being described as a “close ally” of Silver and Silver himself referring to Tanenbaum as a role model in his life. The Knicks argue that if Silver were to preside over the dispute, he would be arbitrating a case for his boss and ally.
The initial filing by the Knicks stems from their allegation that former Knicks employee Ikechukwu Azotam sent thousands of confidential files to the Raptors after they began recruiting him in the summer. These files include scout files, prep books, opponent research, and play frequency reports. The Knicks claim that Azotam violated the team’s confidentiality clause and that Raptors officials either directed his actions or knowingly benefited from them. Azotam held positions as an assistant video coordinator and director of video/analytics/player development assistant for the Knicks.
In response to the Knicks’ lawsuit, the Raptors have called it “baseless” and a “public relations stunt.”