Serge Ibaka # 9 of the Toronto Raptors catches the rebound during the game against the Boston Celtics during the seventh game of the Eastern Conference SemiFinals of the NBA Playoffs on September 11, 2020 at AdventHealth Arena in Orlando, Florida.
Andrew D. Bernstein | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
The Toronto Raptors will begin their 2020-21 regular season in Florida after the Canadian government declares it will not be able to play games in the country due to Covid-19.
The Raptors President Masai Ujiri said the team had been "diligently" working on a safety plan to play at the team's home court, Scotiabank Arena, but the team was unable to convince officials to to allow the game.
"These talks have been productive and we have found strong support for the minutes we put forward," Ujiri said in a statement. "Ultimately, Canadians' current public health situation, coupled with an urgent need to determine where we will play, means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida."
The Amalie Arena, home to the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, is likely to host Raptors games.
The news didn't come as a surprise with the increasing cases of Covid-19 in the United States. On Friday morning, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the country would extend its border restrictions between Canada and the United States due to the pandemic.
The national 7-day average of new daily infections in the US is currently more than 161,100 cases. As cases increase, Florida is one of the few states that remains open to spectator sporting events.
Tampa Bay will also host the Super Bowl LV of the National Football League on February 7th at Raymond James Stadium. The NFL says they will have 20% capacity for the game and will not accept cash at their events.
The Raptors, who won the NBA Finals in 2019, aren't the only team that couldn't get approval. Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays played their 2020 regular season in Buffalo. The NHL received approval to play their bubble in Canada, but the teams stayed in the country with no travel.
"We would like to thank all levels of government and their public health officials for their commitment to this process and for their concern for the health of Canadians," said Ujiri. "We are committed to continuing our collaboration and planning a safe return to Toronto. As an organization, we remain committed to taking and demonstrating public health measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. " . "
The NBA will launch its new campaign on December 22nd.