Toronto Raptors will begin NBA season in Tampa, Fla., amid pandemic

Toronto Raptors players kneel during the national anthem before a playoff game against the Boston Celtics in September.
Toronto Raptors players kneel during the playing of the national anthem before a playoff game against the Boston Celtics in September.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Toronto Raptors plan to start the 2020-21 season in Tampa, Fla., after the Canadian government denied a request by the NBA and the team to play in Toronto amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

An official familiar with the Canadian government’s decision told the Associated Press on Friday that there is too much COVID-19 circulating in the United States to allow for cross-border travel that is not essential.

The official, who was not authorized to talk publicly about the matter and requested anonymity, said there’s a chance that the decision could be reviewed at some point next year.


The Raptors released a statement outlining their plans to start the season in Tampa.

The Raptors and the NBA needed an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel.

The federal government denied the Blue Jays’ request to play in Toronto this year because health officials didn’t think it was safe for players to travel back and forth from the U.S., one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. The number of cases in both countries, but particularly in the U.S. has surged since.

The Blue Jays failed to persuade the federal government to grant exemptions and played home games in Buffalo, New York, this year.

The Canadian government required a comprehensive public health plan and written support from local health officials. The plan was reviewed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.