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Report: Canadian federal government denies Raptors’ request for inter-country travel

As reported by Doug Smith at the Toronto Star, it sounds like the Raptors will spend the 2020-21 season playing their home games somewhere besides Toronto.

Toronto Raptors Victory Parade & Rally Photo by Cole Burston/NBAE via Getty Images

Someone with real power in this country was bound to make the call eventually. As reported by the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith, it sounds like the Canadian federal government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has made their decision to deny the Raptors the ability to cross the U.S.-Canada border to play games in this coming 2020-21 NBA season.

As a result: the Raptors need to find a temporary home in America right away. As we’ve noted before, training camps for this season begin on December 1st, which is a mere ten days away.

Still, this news is not a surprise, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has steadily gotten worse over the past couple of months. With Canadian provincial premiers hellbent on mismanaging the situation, and the sitting (though recently defeated) American president all by steering the country directly into oblivion, the Raptors were always going to have to make the best of a bad hand. (The broader solution to offer mortgage and rent relief, greater income subsidies, and medicare-for-all to quell the pandemic is apparently just a pipe dream, even as the death tolls continue to rise on this continent and those solutions having worked elsewhere on the globe.)

So then, where will the Raptors play their “home” games for the 2020-21 season? As we’ve discussed over the past few weeks, there are a few options. The reported leader right now appears still to be Tampa, Florida, which is a funny option given, again, the irresponsible political leadership in that state. But the NBA did have some success running the recent 2020 Bubble season, so there’s reason to remain optimistic. Meanwhile, other options are also still in the running, including: Kansas City, Nashville, and Newark in New Jersey. (Thankfully the Louisville scenario appears to be fully off the table now.)

In all, the Raptors’ situation became tenuous enough a couple weeks back that gambling lines emerged with the above cities (and more) as potential destinations for the team. Other New York state options could maybe still be possible — what with Buffalo having just played home to the Blue Jays, for example — but it remains to be seen which way the Raptors will go. All we know for sure is: they will indeed have to go. The Raptors, of course, are still very much committed to the idea of playing in Toronto — but it would be difficult to go against a decree from the federal government in this case.

Now, it is indeed true that the coronavirus situation could improve over the next month, thus making this all moot and the Raptors’ return to Toronto a foregone conclusion. But it certainly seems like those in power are determined to make matters worse first. As such, even with arenas now mostly closed to large crowds, it looks like we will not be celebrating any Raptors’ home games for some time. Here’s hoping this fact gets disproved soon.