Jacksonville Sports Day

NBA: Raptors to Begin 2020-21 Season in Tampa

TAMPA – Scotiabank Arena in Toronto will not be the Raptors’ home stadium to open the 2020-21 season.

The Toronto Raptors will start the 2020-21 season calling a city in the United States, and not Canada, home.

The Canadian government denied a request by the NBA and the Raptors to play in Toronto amid the pandemic, and the team says it will start the season next month in Tampa.

Team president Masai Ujiri released a statement via the team on Friday that revealed the move. The team normally plays its home games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario.

“The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena,” Ujiri said in the statement. “These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida.”

An official familiar with the federal government’s decision told The Associated Press there is too much COVID-19 circulating in the United States to allow for cross-border travel that is not essential.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity and not authorized to talk publicly about the matter, said there’s a chance that at some point next year the decision could be reviewed.

The Canadian government had been reviewing a proposal from the NBA and the Raptors. The team had said it needed to know this week with training camp less than two weeks away.

The Raptors and the NBA needed an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel.

The federal government denied the Blue Jays’ request to play in Toronto earlier this year because health officials didn’t think it was safe for players to travel back and forth from the United States, one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. The number of cases in both countries, but particularly in the U.S, has surged since then.

“The health and safety of Canadians is our government’s top priority and reducing the spread of COVID-19 must always be top of mind,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s office said in statement earlier this week. “We understand that many Canadians are eager to see their favorite professional teams return to play. We are reviewing a proposal from the NBA and the Toronto Raptors for the resumption of NBA basketball in Canada.”

In his statement Friday, Ujiri said he was grateful to the Canadian government and public health officials for their dedication to the process of determining if the Raptors could play in Toronto.

“We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to play in Toronto,” Ujiri said. “And as an organization, we remain committed to doing all we can to promote and demonstrate public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

“So we’ll be away from our home and our fans for now. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure that’s possible for us – we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA. For now, I’ll ask you to cheer for us from afar, and we’ll look forward to the day we are all together again.”

Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, did not think the Raptors should be allowed to play in Canada. Nor does he expect the government to approve it.

“I anticipate the Raptors will have to play south of the border,” Morris said in a Nov. 17 interview with The Associated Press. “The logistics, the optics, make no sense.”

Morris calls the U.S. a disaster and noted there won’t be a bubble in the NBA this time.

The Blue Jays failed to persuade the federal government to grant exemptions and played home games in Buffalo this year. Two cities in Florida — Tampa and Fort Lauderdale — along with Nashville were reported as potential destinations for the Raptors.

Information from The Associated Press w

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