Toronto Raptors will not start next season at home due to COVID-19 restrictions

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TORONTO —
The Toronto Raptors will not be starting their new season at home due to COVID-19 protocols.

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Raptors’ President Masai Ujiri confirmed that the team did not receive permission from the government to play on home soil at the Scotiabank Arena.

“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,” Ujiri said.

“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 played a condensed 2020 NBA season in Orlando, Fla., with players confined to a bubble at Walt Disney World.

When the season ended, Ujiri hoped the team would be able to return home for 2021.

“We are Canada’s team. We want that opportunity and that is working with public health, that is working with the government, the province, that’s working with everybody trying to figure out a way to keep the Raptors here,” Ujiri told CTV News last week as the government reviewed their proposal.

A spokesperson for the minister of health said the decision not to allow the Toronto Raptors to play in Toronto based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“The resumption of sports events in Canada must be undertaken in adherence to Canada’s plan to mitigate the importation and spread of COVID-19. Like other countries, Canada is working on plans for a measured resumption of sports, including, both professional and amateur sporting events,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“We are going to continue our dialogue with the Raptors and look forward to the safe return of NBA basketball in the future.”

The Canada-U.S. border has remained closed to non-essential travel since March and was just extended for another month.

Anyone who does travel into Canada must quarantine for 14 days—a fact that makes cross-border sport competitions a challenge.

The Toronto Blue Jays were also confined to the United States during their 2020 season after their proposal was denied by both provincial and federal governments, playing their home games in Buffalo instead.

The 2020-21 NBA season starts Dec. 22, with training camps opening on Dec. 1.

With files from the Canadian Press