Basketball took a backseat to the fight against anti-Black racism for the Toronto Raptors and the NBA this summer and it appears those priorities remain unchanged.
With the Canada-U.S. border closed for non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic — complicating the league’s goal of returning teams to their arenas next season for its lone franchise outside America — the Raptors have reportedly had discussions about the possibility of Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center serving as a temporary home.
However, according to Rick Bozich of the local Fox-affiliated TV station, WDRB, those talks ended after Raptors players expressed their reluctance to play in Kentucky’s largest city because of the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March, and the social unrest that followed.
The reported concerns are in line with previous comments from the Raptors, who were outspoken in the NBA’s Orlando bubble about Taylor’s death and other racial and social justice causes that emerged over the summer.
And, per Bozich, it is confirmed the Raptors will not be playing their 2021 season in Louisville.
The seriousness of the initial talks is unclear, with former NBA player and now-businessman Junior Bridgeman — who was cited in Wednesday’s story as being involved in the discussions about Louisville — telling WDRB that he was never “told that it was even an option.”
“I was dumbfounded by the report. From everything I’ve been told, the intention of the Raptors and the NBA is for the team to play the season in Toronto. With the improvements in (novel coronavirus) testing, I believe that is their preferred option.”
“I have never had a conversation with the NBA about the Raptors coming here,” Bridgeman continued.