Raptors to play begin of 2021 season in Florida, feds deem play in Toronto unsafe

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Printed Friday, November 20, 2020 1:13PM EST

Final Up to date Friday, November 20, 2020 9:38PM EST

TORONTO – Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors boast about having among the best fan bases within the league.

However as a result of COVID-19, it may be a long-distance love affair for now.

The Raptors will begin their season enjoying house video games in Tampa, Fla., subsequent month after being unable to return to an settlement with the federal authorities to play at Scotiabank Area throughout the world pandemic.

Ujiri mentioned the present public well being scenario dealing with Canadians, mixed with the workforce’s pressing have to discover a place to play, led to the choice to announce Tampa as a brief house.

“So we’ll be away from our house and our followers for now,” the Raptors president mentioned in an announcement. “They are saying absence makes the guts develop fonder. I am undecided that is attainable for us – we love Toronto and Canada, and we all know we have now the very best followers within the NBA. For now, I will ask you to cheer for us from afar, and we’ll sit up for the day we’re all collectively once more.”

An announcement from Well being Minister Patty Hajdu’s workplace mentioned the choice was made based mostly on recommendation from the Public Well being Company of Canada. The workplace says it should proceed its dialogue with the Raptors.

“The resumption of sports activities occasions in Canada have to be undertaken in adherence to Canada’s plan to mitigate the importation and unfold of COVID-19,” the assertion mentioned. “Like different international locations, Canada is engaged on plans for a measured resumption of sports activities, together with, each skilled and novice sporting occasions.”

The Raptors had hoped to start out the 2020-21 marketing campaign at house regardless of rising numbers of COVID-19 circumstances at house and in the US. However the determination was written within the spikes in circumstances, the Canadian authorities’s restrictions round cross-border journey and the obligatory 14-day quarantine for individuals coming into Canada.

It proved an excessive amount of for the nation’s solely NBA workforce. And “We the South” was trending on Twitter on Friday quickly after the information broke.

The Raptors will play out of 20,500-seat Amalie Area, house to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I am certain I converse for everyone within the metropolis of Toronto, we’ll help the Raptors wherever they’re enjoying as a result of they’re our Raptors,” Toronto Mayor John Tory mentioned Friday. “And Tampa Bay should not get any concepts in that regard, they’re our Raptors and they are going to be our workforce.”

Basic supervisor Bobby Webster mentioned earlier this week that, with time ticking all the way down to the Dec. 1 begin to coaching camp, there have been numerous collective work hours spent on this determination day by day, with quite a few begins and stops with every location. The workforce had checked out a number of choices, with Nashville and Buffalo believed to be among the many attainable locations.

Webster mentioned the essential elements in selecting a brief house have been the observe facility, medical services, and an enviornment that match NBA requirements – notably with broadcast necessities – and had obtainable dates.

“After which, way of life issues,” Webster mentioned earlier this week. “I believe in some unspecified time in the future we’re asking individuals right here to uproot their lives and go to a spot that they could doubtlessly be away from their households for six to seven months. So, we wish to be respectful of that, and we wish individuals to really feel like we’re going someplace the place we really feel secure and so they really feel like they’ll settle in.”

Florida has been a COVID-19 hotspot. It had 9,085 new circumstances on Thursday and is third-highest in whole circumstances amongst states.

If COVID-19 reveals indicators of abating, and with a pure break within the season coming throughout the all-star break in early March, Webster urged there could be “a chance to transition again” to Toronto.“

The schedule for the season, which ideas off Dec. 22, is being launched in two elements.

“We’ll work laborious with public well being and with the Raptors and everyone else to ensure that within the spring or late winter we would be capable to get them again right here,” Tory mentioned.

“And so, if individuals can simply get on board, and get this virus wrestled to the bottom, it’s going to be no downside getting them again, and we wish them again and they are going to be again, and they are going to win.”

The 2019 NBA champions have not performed a house sport since a 99-96 loss to Charlotte on Feb. 28. A few days after getting back from a five-game western highway journey, the league shut down as a result of COVID-19.

They’re acquainted with Florida. Simply earlier than the season resumed, they held a camp in Fort Myers – a type of pre-bubble bubble. The season restarted July 30 underneath strict well being protocols at a sealed-off complicated at Walt Disney World close to Orlando, Fla., and was deemed successful, with no constructive coronavirus checks.

The Raptors be part of the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto FC, the Montreal Impression and the Vancouver Whitecaps, who performed most of their respective seasons south of the border.

Just like the Raptors, the Blue Jays appealed to the provincial and federal governments to play at house however have been denied. They relocated quickly to Buffalo.

The 2019-20 NHL season additionally paused in March earlier than persevering with within the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Nov. 20, 2020.