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

Photo submitted
Nesika students donate 2,000 pounds of fresh produce back into community

“Fresh to You” is a fundraising initiative for schools

Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison venture into the Sierra Nevada backcountry for some outlandish ski touring above 14,000 feet. (Christian Pondella photo)
Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour goes virtual in lakecity

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is back, despite the global, novel coronavirus pandemic

A convoy of vehicles passes through Heckman Pass on Highway 20 as cleanup operations continued Saturday. Dawson Road Maintenance is asking motorists to watch for crews and equipment working throughout the area. (Dawson Road Maintenance photo/Facebook)
Highway 20 reopens between Anahim Lake and Bella Coola after winter storm Friday

“We appreciate your patience as we continue to clear wood debris and widen sections of the road.”

A memorandum agreement is being signed with between the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Friendship Society for the Longhouse at the Stampede Grounds to be used as temporary emergency shelter if needed. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Most Read