Closed US-Canadian Border Could Affect Raptors Return

Aaron Rose

Do NBA players constitute essential personnel?

It's the question the NBA will have to answer if it wants to return this season as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the Canadian-U.S. border will remain closed to all non-essential travel for at least another month.

The announcement is an extension of the closing that's been in place since March 21 and will continue until June 21 at the earliest. Only health-care workers and personnel vital to Canadian-American trade and commerce are exempt from the closing, CTV reports.

About half of the Toronto Raptors roster is currently in the United States, according to Raptors General Manager Bobby Webster. If NBA players are not exempt from the travel restrictions, those players living across the border will not be able to re-join the team in Toronto for workouts. Additionally, any players currently in Canada will not be able to travel to the United States for games until the border closure is lifted.

Just one day after Trudeau announced the extension of the border closure, ESPN's Adrian Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported that the NBA is expected to issue guidelines around June 1 that will allow NBA franchises to begin recalling players who have left their markets.

While it seems likely that both the Canadian and U.S. governments will permit the NBA to travel without restrictions in order to facilitate the league's return, the Canadian government has so far been very strict on making exceptions. The Globe and Mail reported a story last week about a father who was not permitted to cross the border to see the birth of his son.

One option the Raptors have reportedly been considering is conducting their training camp in the United States, according to Sportsnet's Michael Grange. 

News of Tuesday's closure extension comes four days after Toronto Mayor John Tory told Sportsnet that he doesn't expect professional sports games to take place in Toronto until the fall.

"I would just say to people, don’t hold your hopes out that you’re going to see professional sports played in Toronto, even in front of an empty stadium, before sometime into the fall,” he said.

The NBA was reportedly considering Toronto as a potential — albeit unlikely — bubble city for a potential return. This border closing makes that even more improbable.

This story has been updated to reflect new reporting on May 21, 2020

Aaron Rose covers the Toronto Raptors for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @aaronbenrose or on Facebook @AllRaptors.

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