Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives on Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (8) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives on Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (8) during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Canada reviewing NBA plan to play in Toronto amid pandemic

The federal government denied the Blue Jays’ request to play in Toronto earlier this year

The Canadian government is reviewing a proposal from the NBA and the Raptors to play in Toronto amid the pandemic.

A spokesman for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday officials have been in contact with the Raptors and will continue to engage with them “in the coming weeks.” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster told Sportsnet television the team needs to know “in the coming days. This is not a next week type thing.”

The Raptors and the NBA need an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must self-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,” Hajdu’s office said in statement. “We understand that many Canadians are eager to see their favourite 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.”

The NBA season is set to open Dec. 22, with training camps beginning in about two weeks. Time is running out for the Raptors.

“We are working on, as everyone knows, a kind of parallel path here which is we want to stay in Toronto but as we all know time is of the essence and we are also working on a path to play elsewhere,” Webster said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

“We want to be in Toronto. We want to play here. But we are also realistic about the timing and respectful of the protocols. … It doesn’t necessarily affect our operations. We all know we’ll run a basketball team and the 72 games will get played. But just where that is probably more of a — as everyone can imagine — drain on personal decisions and families which always looms large in this industry.”

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, doesn’t 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. “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. This season will require teams to travel in the U.S.

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 have been reported as potential destinations for the Raptors.

The Canadian government requites a comprehensive public health plan and written support from local health officials. The plan is being reviewed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Rob Gillies, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusNBA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff Sgt. Darrell Underwood and Ian Gibbs, coordinator of volunteers for the Saanich Police Department, stand in front of the new Saanich Community Safety Office at Uptown Shopping Centre. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich police call on volunteers for new community safety team

Community Safety Office to open spring 2021 at Uptown Shopping Centre

Laura Campbell was one of eight people to receive the Community Living BC Widening Our World award in 2020. (Courtesy of Laura Campbell)
Victoria woman earns provincial award for work with differently abled adults

Widening our World awards recognize community, inclusivity building

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District’s wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point. (Photo courtesy CRD)
PHOTOS: Check out Greater Victoria’s new wasterwater treatment facilities

Long-awaited project has been up and running since late 2020

Learning tools from the Garth Homer Society’s LifeStreams program have gone online. (Facebook/Garth Homer Society)
Online platform launched for Greater Victoria adults with developmental disabilities

Platform includes programs, events, activities and COVID-19 resources

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich police, GVERT arrest suspect in West Shore investigation

Man arrested near Rutledge Park early Saturday morning

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Most Read