Knicks request Adam Silver not arbitrate Raptors case, argue conflict of interest

The Knicks point to Silver's strong relationship with Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum, and are also seeking $10 million in damages.

The New York Knicks are requesting that NBA commissioner Adam Silver not arbitrate their ongoing lawsuit with the Toronto Raptors because of his friendship with Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum. Furthermore, the Knicks are seeking more than $10 million in damages from the Canadian franchise.

New York filed the suit on Monday in response to Toronto’s motion to dismiss the former’s initial lawsuit. Additionally, along with jettisoning the Knicks’ complaint, the Raptors were also asking for Silver to be an arbitrator in the case, as opposed to it going to court.

TORONTO, ON, CANADA - November 28, 2022: Toronto Raptors team logo on the floor during the Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers NBA regular season game at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Knicks are suing the Raptors for more than $10 million in damages. (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In their recent filing, the Knicks assert that because Tanenbaum is the chairman of the NBA's board of governors, there will be a conflict of interest regarding Silver’s judgment.

“Tanenbaum serves as Silver's boss and exercises control over and heavily influences Silver's continued employment and salary,” the Knicks claimed in their filing on Monday.

Moreover, the storied franchise also points to the close relationship between Silver and Tanenbaum as a reason for the former to distance himself from the case.

"Among other things, Tanenbaum has been described as 'a close ally of Commissioner Adam Silver,'" the Knicks claim. "Silver himself described Tanenbaum as 'not just my boss as the chairman of the board of governors, but he's very much a role model in my life.' If Silver were to preside over the instant dispute, he would be arbitrating a case for his boss and ally."

“We were the victim of a theft of proprietary and confidential files, which is a clear violation of criminal and civil law, and we remain confident that the Court will decide in our favor in this matter.” an MSG Sports Spokesperson told Yahoo Sports Canada.

MLSE, who owns the Raptors, also declined to release a statement according to Sportsnet.

Knicks accuse Raptors of conspiring to steal thousands of confidential scouting files

New York’s initial filing stems from them alleging that former Knicks employee Ikechukwu Azotam sent Toronto thousands of confidential files after they began recruiting him this past summer. These include but are not limited to scout files, prep books, opponent research, and play frequency reports.

They also claim that Azotam broke the team’s confidentiality clause and that Raptors officials "directed Azotam's actions and/or knowingly benefited from Azotam's wrongful acts." Azotam was an assistant video coordinator, as well as a director of video/analytics/player development assistant for the Knicks.

In Toronto’s October 16 move to dismiss the case, they called New York’s lawsuit "baseless" and a "public relations stunt.”