Toronto Raptors to play upcoming season in Tampa Bay due to coronavirus: Ujiri

A woman wearing a mask pulls her suitcase in front of Scotiabank Arena where both the Raptors and Maple Leafs play in Toronto on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Toronto and Edmonton are on the verge of being picked as hub cities for the NHL's resumption of play, according to multiple reports. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The Toronto Raptors will play the upcoming NBA season in Tampa Bay due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, says President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri.

Ujiri said the organization worked with public health officials on all levels to try to allow the team to play at home in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.

Read more: Canada reviewing NBA plan for Raptors to play in Toronto amid coronavirus: minister

However due to the ongoing pandemic and the “urgent need” to know where the Raptors will play, Ujiri said the decision was made to play in Tampa Bay, Florida.

“We want to thank all levels of government and their public health officials for their dedication to this process, and for looking after the health of Canadians,” Ujiri said in a statement Friday. “We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to play in Toronto.

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“And as an organization, we remain committed to doing all we can to promote and demonstrate public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.”

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READ MORE: Ujiri hopes Raptors can play in Toronto as COVID-19 cases spike

The Raptors and the NBA needed an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel.

Canada had previously denied the Toronto Blue Jays from playing their MLB season at Rogers Centre. The team ended up playing out the 2020 season in Buffalo, New York.

The 2019 NBA champions haven’t played a home game since a 99-96 loss to Charlotte on Feb. 28.

The NBA saw its 2019-20 season pause in March due to the spread of COVID-19. It resumed July 30 at a sealed-off “bubble” complex at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.

The NBA season is set to begin Dec. 22. Training camps open Dec. 1.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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