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Toronto Raptors Denied Permission to Play in Canada

The franchise has been denied permission to start the 2020-21 NBA season in their home country.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors have been denied permission to start the 2020-21 NBA season playing in Canada. They will begin the year in Tampa, Florida. Franchise President Masai Ujuri said the decision came from a combination of an “urgent need” to determine where the team would play and the “current public health crisis facing Canadians” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA season will begin on December 22nd, a decision finalized just weeks ago.

The news was echoed by multiple media members:

Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports has the full statement from Ujuri:

It reads:

The Raptors 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 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena. These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. 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. We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to play in Toronto. And as an organization, we remain committed to doing all we can to promote and demonstrate public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

So we’ll be away from our home and our fans for now. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. 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.

The Raptors won 53 games out of 72 in last year’s shortened NBA season. They lost to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs by a 3-4 margin. They are the 2019 NBA Champions.