Toronto Raptors to play in Tampa to begin 2020-’21 NBA season

By Matt Johnson
May 25, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; A general view of Scotiabank Arena before game six of the Eastern conference finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs between the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors will begin the 2020-’21 NBA season playing in Tampa, Florida, following Canada’s decision to deny the team the ability to play at Scotiabank Arena due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s the same ruling the Toronto Blue Jays received earlier this year, when they played their home games in Buffalo after Canada denied their request for an exemption to COVID-19 travel protocols.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Raptors, check out #WeTheNorth rumors, rankings, and news here.

Toronto Raptors news: Team to play in Tampa to start 2020-’21 NBA season

Masai Ujiri, the Raptors president of basketball operations, announced the decision on Friday. When NBA training camp begins in a few weeks, the Raptors will be preparing in Florida and will host games in Tampa.

“The Raptors 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 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena,” Masai Ujiri said, via press release. These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. 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.”

Under Canada’s coronavirus regulations, the Raptors would be allowed to travel out of the country for games in the United States. However, they would be required to quarantine for 14 days each time they returned to Toronto. On top of that, any opponent would be subjected to a 14-day quarantine.

With the 2020-’21 NBA season set to begin on Dec. 22, there wasn’t enough time for the Toronto Raptors to try and weigh numerous temporary homes to play in. Kansas City offered to be the hosting site, but playing in Florida was expected. Ultimately, the organization acted quickly and chose Tampa, Florida.

The Raptors will play in Amalie Arena, which is located downtown and is home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It holds a seating capacity of 20,500, but it’s unlikely that many fans will be allowed in attendance due to the pandemic.

Canada has seen a significant spike in coronavirus cases since September, jumping from averaging under 1,000 new cases per day to 5,000-plus in recent weeks. The bigger concern for the country is the United States, which is averaging over 100,000 new cases daily since November.

The Toronto Raptors have called Canada their home since the team was founded in 1995 and the team is beloved by the entire country. Unfortunately, basketball fans in Canada will have to watch from afar to start this season. Unless a vaccine becomes readily available, we might not see the Raptors return to Toronto until the 2021-’22 season.