TORONTO – Drake is downplaying his role in helping bring England soccer star Jermain Defoe to Toronto, although his Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment boss says differently.
The 27-year-old Toronto hip-hop star, in his role as MLSE’s global ambassador, spoke to Defoe several times by phone during negotiations. MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke has said the calls made a difference.
Defoe, currently with England’s Tottenham, is to be introduced as a Toronto FC player at a news conference Monday. The 31-year-old striker is slated to join the Major League Soccer team at the end of next month.
“I don’t know if I had an influence on him coming here,” Drake said Saturday during a night in his honour at the Raptors-Nets NBA game. “I think that all I did is just give him the necessary information that he needed about a city that he didn’t know much about.
“And I told him how great it’s been to me and how great I assume it will be to him. And we had a great conversation. We built up a personal relationship. I’m excited to see him begin his career here. I think that everybody’s excited.
“I just do what he can. (Leiweke) he’s the boss. So I think it’s all Tim really. I was just a piece of the puzzle, I guess.”
On Friday, Leiweke said Drake and Defoe remain in touch.
“They still talk to each other,” he said. “I don’t think Jermain’s joining the band and I’m fairly certain Drake’s not joining the (soccer) team but they’ve forged a good friendship.”
The Raptors brought Drake on board in September as global ambassador, saying he would be heavily involved in the rebranding of the team over the next two years.
But his role seems to have evolved and increased, as witnessed by his lending a hand to the soccer arm of MLSE.
“I think tonight is clear evidence that the relationship is evolving by the day,” Drake said with a smile, referring to Drake Night. “I want to do everything I can … It’s really about the city for me, man. My phone was blowing up all day long for people that wanted to come to a Raptors’ game. That to me is exciting.
“Tonight isn’t a Drake show. It’s got nothing really to do with Drake. I mean at the end of the day, the Raptors are playing the Brooklyn Nets. It’s really got nothing to do with me, I’m just going to be sitting there.
“But the fact that people want to come out, participate, get a free T-shirt. If that’s what it takes to put people in the stands, then every night can be Drake Night if you want. if I didn’t have to tour, I’d come every night. I just want to add to the city and the team.”
Drake and 19,800 fans left happy after a 96-80 Raptors’ win at the soldout Air Canada Centre.