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Raptors join local franchises to launch Team Toronto Fund to support their workers

With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing and professional sports on hiatus, Toronto’s teams — including the Raptors — are putting together a financial support plan for their workers.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

On the one hand, the news out of Toronto — and across the globe — is getting increasingly grim. Efforts to slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) haven’t quite gotten off the ground here in North America just yet (particularly in America). The situation is likely going to get worse in the short term before taking a turn for the better. We’ll make it there — but there are going to be rough times ahead.

On the other hand, some good local news: with the suspension of professional sports leagues — namely the NBA and NHL — and the cancellation of major events, there’s been much concern over what would happen to all of the support staff and arena/stadium workers whose livelihoods will be affected by the shutdown. As far as Toronto is concerned, we can worry no more.

According to an official release issued this evening, the Raptors will join the Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays, Toronto FC, and the Argonauts to create what’s being called a “special assistance fund” to help compensate staff who need “extra financial assistance.” I put those words in quotes because it’s unclear at this time how the fund will actually work — though the press release does mention that management, coaches, and players from all five organizations will pitch in together to help.

Let’s here from Masai Ujiri now:

“For me, the definition of teammate was never limited to the people who wear our jersey or who work for the Raptors. We showed that last spring in good times. Now we’re coming together to get through these unprecedented times. Being a good teammate means looking out for our neighbours, friends and the people we work with. Through this fund, we all pledge to be good teammates to our arena, stadium and support staff. We want to be here for them, the way they are always here for us.”

All I’ll add: here’s hoping the bulk of the money being put into this fund is coming from the massive billionaire corporations (media companies Bell and Rogers, first and foremost) and not necessarily relying on, say, some pocket money from [draws name out of a hat] Chris Boucher. To be clear, the players on all five teams are welcome to do what they like and seeing them support the local community is a good thing in the aggregate. But putting the onus on the players — who are employees too, albeit on a different salary scale — is a tad unseemly.

The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation in modern history and it’ll require some extraordinary good faith efforts from corporations to ensure the fabric of society isn’t torn completely asunder. The bottom line here is: it can be done. These companies can take care of their employees until it’s time for them to return to work — and for everyone to return to sports and our normal lives. Maybe it’s foolish to think we can ask of this from billionaire corporations, but we should. In fact, we should demand it.

In any case, once again, check out Canada’s Public Health site for more information on what you can do about COVID-19.