So too is the spotlight on their fans — but the reaction isn’t always positive.
Superfan Nav Bhatia, a Sikh man who wears a turban, found that out first-hand when a Milwaukee Bucks fan made racist comments towards him on Twitter.
“When I came here over 30 years ago to this country, I faced insults like that. But I don’t fight insults with insults back,” Bhatia said.
But Bhatia took the incident in stride, saying he “changed that negative thing into a very positive thing.”
Bhatia is a staple at Raptors games. He says he hasn’t missed a home game in 24 years.
The Raptors beat the Bucks to advance to the finals this past weekend. During the playoffs, Bhatia is a frequent sight – either courtside or with other Raptors fans.
During the conference final series, a fan using the handle @KJB30 on Twitter called Bhatia an “annoying fan” and compared his turban to “underwear on his head.”
MP Raj Grewal called the tweet racist and asked for Twitter to take down the tweet.
Bhatia shared that sentiment of comradery.
“I always want to change the opinion of the person in a positive way,” he told Global News’ Farrah Nassar.
“And I think that’s what I did with him. He called me two days later.”
He also said the man, who remains unnamed, did the right thing by approaching him. Bhatia promised to take the man out for dinner next time he’s in Milwaukee, and send his son some basketball gear in the spirit of friendship.
“I said, ‘Don’t curse yourself now you’ve done the mistake. We’re all human beings, we make mistakes. You’re apologizing and I’m accepting it,” Bhatia said.
Bhatia’s long history with the Raptors
Bhatia first immigrated to Canada in the ’90s and found work as a car salesman. Eventually, he worked his way up to owning multiple dealerships.
He’s been going to Raptors games since the first game in 1995, he said.
More recently, he’s started the Nav Bhatia Superfan foundation, where his goal is to “unite people of all ages and backgrounds through the game of basketball.”
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The foundation aims to build basketball courts and camps for children in Canada and worldwide.
Bhatia also buys tickets to bring Sikh youth to games.
The Raptors’ wins have brought international spotlight to Bhatia. A CNN reporter’s tweets on Bhatia’s story has recently gone viral.
You can expect next to see Bhatia courtside as the Raptors next take on the NBA Finals — the team’s first trip to the league’s championship series. The team’s first game against the Golden State Warriors is Thursday night. (edited)