Canada’s federal government has denied Toronto’s request for the Raptors to play games at Scotiabank Arena ahead of the 2020-21 season.
Instead, Raptors President Masai Ujiri said the team will begin play in Tampa, Fla. at an alternate site when the season kicks off on Dec. 22.
“The Raptors have 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 games on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena,” Ujiri said in a statement.
“…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.”
“We want to thank all levels of government and their public health officials for their dedication to this process, and for looking after the health of Canadians,” Ujiri added.
A statement from our president Masai Ujiri. pic.twitter.com/qrnPt5MEsA
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 20, 2020
From Kansas City to other locations, the Raptors weren’t short on suitors for a temporary home, but a source tells 680NEWS that Toronto’s players were consulted and ultimately preferred to play out of Florida for the time being.
There is a chance the federal government could eventually re-examine the decision for the Raptors to return and play in Canada, according to Rob Gillies of the Associated Press.
“If the situation gets better then we’re happy to reassess,” the official said.
The Raptors are more than familiar playing games the sunshine state following the resumption of the past NBA season that saw every team play at an alternate training site in Orlando.
A similar decision was made by the federal government back in July, when public health officials denied the Blue Jays’ request to play their games at Rogers Centre.
Last week, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said he was in talks with the team about the new season, saying “what I would say is that the Raptors have presented very good protocols. I think they’ve learned a lot.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed to non-essential travel and those entering the country are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
In the shortened season, the Raptors finished first in the Atlantic Division, eventually advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and losing to the Boston Celtics.
“So we’ll be away from our home and our fans for now. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Ujiri said.
“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.”