The government of Canada is reviewing a proposal from the NBA and the Raptors to play in Toronto as the pandemic persists.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s spokesman said officials have contacted the Raptors and will continue to hold talks with them “in the coming weeks.” The General Manager of Raptors, Bobby Webster told Sportsnet television that the team needs to know “in the coming days. This is not a next week type thing.”
The Raptors and the NBA need to be given an exemption to a requirement that anyone coming into Canada for reasons that are nonessential must self-isolate for 14 days. The US-Canada border still remain closed to nonessential travels.
The government declined the Blue Jays’ request to play in Toronto earlier in 2020 due to the fact that health officials felt it was unsafe for players to travel back and forth from the United States, a country with the highest cases of COVID-19.
Hajdu’s office said in a statement issued that “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. 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.”
While talking to reporters recently, Webster said: “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.
“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.”
In his view, Dr. Andrew Morris, a Professor of infectious diseases at University of Toronto and medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, doesn’t feel the Raptors should be permitted to play in Canada. Also he does not expect the government to approve it.
Morris said: “I anticipate the Raptors will have to play south of the border. The logistics, the optics, make no sense.”
The government of Canada requires a comprehensive public health plan and written support issued by local health officials. The plan is under the Public Health Agency of Canada’s review.