The Toronto Raptors will play the upcoming NBA season in Tampa Bay due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, says President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri.
Ujiri said the organization worked with public health officials on all levels to try to allow the team to play at home in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.
However due to the ongoing pandemic and the “urgent need” to know where the Raptors will play, Ujiri said the decision was made to play in Tampa Bay, 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,” Ujiri said in a statement Friday. “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.”
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The Raptors and the NBA needed 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.
Canada had previously denied the Toronto Blue Jays from playing their MLB season at Rogers Centre. The team ended up playing out the 2020 season in Buffalo, New York.
The 2019 NBA champions haven’t played a home game since a 99-96 loss to Charlotte on Feb. 28.
The NBA saw its 2019-20 season pause in March due to the spread of COVID-19. It resumed July 30 at a sealed-off “bubble” complex at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.
The NBA season is set to begin Dec. 22. Training camps open Dec. 1.
—With files from The Canadian Press.
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