The Toronto Raptors will begin the 2020-21 NBA season in Tampa, Florida, the team said in a statement Friday.
The raptors could not reach an agreement with the Canadian government based on their plan to play their home games at the Scotiabunk Stadium in Toronto amid the Corona virus epidemic. The team will instead play in the Amali arena, home to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
An official familiar with the government’s decision told the Associated Press on Friday that COVID-19 was in high circulation in the United States, allowing unnecessary cross-border travel.
“The Raptors worked diligently with local, provincial and federal public health officials to obtain a plan that would allow us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court in the Scotiabank arena,” Raptors chief Masai Uziri said in a statement. “These conversations were fruitful and we saw strong support for the ethics we put forward.
“Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians is that we begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida, with an urgent need to determine where we play.”
Raptors and NBA exemption are required for anyone entering Canada for essential reasons to be isolated for 14 days. The US-Canada border is closed for essential travel.
The Canadian government has been reconsidering the NBA and the Raptors’ proposal. The team was told to get to know this week with less than two weeks of training camp.
The official told the Associated Press that the decision was likely to be reconsidered at some point next year.
Steven Stamkos, The captain of the Stanley Cup champion Lightning, welcomed his new neighbor on Twitter, a play on the NBA team’s familiar slogan.
“WE THE SOUTH” https://t.co/hVHlJKItrh
– Steven Stamkos (ியல் Realstamkos 91) November 20, 2020
Uziri said the Raptors will continue to work with the Canadian government on a “safe visit” plan to play in Toronto.
“So we will be away from our home and our fans now,” Uziri said in the statement. “They say the absence is heartbreaking and I don’t think it’s possible for us – we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA.
The Canadian federal government has rejected Major League Baseball’s Blue Jays’ request to play in Toronto this year because health officials do not think it’s safe for players to travel back and forth from the United States.
The Blue Zeus played their home games at Buffalo in New York this season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.