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We the South: Raptors to temporarily call Tampa home to start 2020-21 NBA season

Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images.

One season removed from being named the NBA Champions, the Toronto Raptors will have a new challenge to contend with this upcoming season, courtesy of the Canadian federal government.

The Raptors released a statement penned by president Masai Ujiri on Friday, confirming the team’s upcoming absence from Toronto. It reads in part, “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.”

Ujiri maintains that conversations were productive, but due to the public health crisis and the Raptors’ urgent need to find a home for the upcoming season, the decision was made to make Tampa their temporary home. As a result, the Raptors will be playing just over 80 miles down the road from the NBA bubble where they spent two playoff rounds this past summer before bowing out to the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series.

NBA teams and fans have poked fun at the Raptors’ slogan, “We the North,” for several years now, pointing out that the Trailblazers (Portland, OR) and Timberwolves (Minneapolis, MN) actually play their home games further north than Toronto. Of course, the defining point of the Raptors’ argument is that they play for and represent the entire country of Canada, but their new home is prompting some to suggest a new slogan.

While the location clearly makes sense for the Raptors for several reasons, it’s difficult to ignore the irony that the only team further south than Tampa is the Miami Heat. In that regard, an adjusted slogan might be warranted. With NBA training camp being less than two weeks away, Toronto was in a hurry to find a home in the US, so what’s most important right now is that they got that done.

It remains to be seen whether Toronto will have to play all 36 of their home games this season in the US or if they’ll be able to make the transition to Toronto at some point this winter. If the Raptors are looking for advice on how to settle in to a temporary home away from home, however, they can look no further than the MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays who were forced to play in the US this past season at the hands of the Canadian government.

Masai Ujiri said in his statement that the team will continue to work with public health authorities and the federal and provincial governments as they prioritize “planning for a safe return to play in Toronto.”

As of right now, the NBA has not released an official regular season schedule for any of its 30 teams, but the start date is tentatively set for December 22nd, 2020.

CFL announces 2021 season schedule for all nine clubs

Photo credit: Geoff Robins / CFL Photo

The Canadian Football League is among professional sports leagues to have taken the biggest hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to having their entire 2020 season wiped out, the league also requested and was denied $150 million in financial assistance from the federal government in April, before also being denied a $30 million loan in August.

Unlike other sports leagues which have been able to resume play without fans in the stands thanks to lucrative TV deals, the CFL doesn’t make nearly enough money from broadcast partners. The nine-team league relies heavily on the presence of fans in the seats, with ticket buyers providing the greatest source of revenue.

When the CFL officially ruled out the possibility of a shortened season on August 17th, it left many questions to be answered about the future of the league. But two days shy of what would have been the 108th Grey Cup in Regina this weekend, the league has officially rolled out its plans for the 2021 season on Friday.

To kick things off, the B.C. Lions and Calgary Stampeders will face off in Calgary on May 23rd for the first game of a three-week, two-game preseason for each team. The contest won’t count for anything in the standings, but the significance won’t be lost on the fact that it will be the first CFL game in 546 days by the time the players take the field.

As an all-Canadian league with an 18-game schedule, all nine teams are already quite familiar with the other teams in the league. However, in order to minimize travel across the country, the CFL will is implementing more divisional games than normal.

The B.C. Lions, for example, will play Ottawa and Montreal two times in 2021 but will only face Toronto and Hamilton once each. In 2019, they played all four teams in the East Division twice. Similar tweaks will be made to the schedules of all nine teams to keep teams closer to home during the season.

Still, the season won’t be without some exciting inter-division matchups. Hamilton and Winnipeg will square off on June 10th for opening day in a rematch of the 107th Grey Cup that saw Winnipeg come out on top 33-12.

The regular season is set to conclude on October 30th with a handful of rivalries. The Toronto Argonauts will host the Montreal Alouettes while the still-unnamed Edmonton Football Team will wrap up its season in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers.

The CFL Playoffs will begin on November 7th, while the 108th Grey Cup will take place one year from tomorrow on November 21st, 2021 in Hamilton, Ontario. It remains unclear if fans will be permitted into the stadiums by the time action is set to begin this spring, but for now Canadian football fans have a tangible date to hold onto which is a step in the right direction.

You can check out the full 2021 season schedule here.