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Toronto Raptors to begin 2020-21 NBA season in Tampa

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) dunks during late second half action in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference final in Milwaukee against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, May 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The Toronto Raptors will begin the 2020-2021 NBA season in Tampa, Florida

Canada’s federal government has denied the Raptors' request to play in Toronto

The Toronto Raptors will begin play of the 2020-21 season in Tampa after being unable to secure permission to play in Canada, the team announced Friday.

The question of where the Raptors would call home in 2020-21 has loomed large over the team in recent weeks, with their ability to play at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto complicated by the closure of the Canada–U.S. border and the quarantine requirements for those who travel between the two countries.

As was the case with the Toronto Blue Jays, who were eventually forced to play their entire 2020 season in Buffalo due to these same issues, the Raptors will temporarily relocate to the U.S., at least for the beginning of the campaign.

“The Raptors have 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 games on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said in a statement.

“…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.”

Earlier this month, Health Minister Patty Hajdu told Sportsnet’s Michael Grange that any plans for the resumption of professional sports in Canada would not take priority over the federal government’s primary focus of mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.

“The Government of Canada’s priority is to protect the health and safety of Canadians. 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,” Hajdu told Grange.

The agreed upon schedule for the NBA’s 2020-21 season surely impacted the Raptors’ decision-making in regards to starting the campaign in Tampa. Players are to report to team markets in just 10 days, with group practices beginning in two weeks, and pre-season games commencing in three weeks.

The Raptors are more than familiar playing games in Florida following the resumption of the past NBA season that saw every team play at an alternate training site in Orlando.

The Raptors finished first in the Atlantic Division, eventually advancing to the Eastern semi-finals and losing to the Boston Celtics.