An open letter to the NBA champion Toronto Raptors

Dear Toronto Raptors,


You have achieved something truly historic, not only for a city, but the whole league and country. Winning four NBA games in the finals is ridiculously difficult, and that is before you factor going up against Steph Curry and perennial champs the Warriors.

Before this season even began, people had doubts about your chances. The whole team, in fact, is made up of players who were underestimated, overlooked or undrafted.

But you stuck through all of it.

And here you are now, with your family, friends and fans, soaking in all the champagne and confetti. You earned every bit of it. And we Raptors fans are forever grateful.

There’s just one more thing we’d like to ask. Actually, a couple: can you please skip on the White House visit and any official photo-op with Ontario Premier Doug Ford?

We understand that politics and sports are an uncomfortable combination (for some), but these are uniquely uncomfortable times.

We have a president south of the border who has proudly vilified and disenfranchised people of colour, who has enacted laws that have put children in cages and who spends more time on Twitter than concerning himself with humanitarian crises in his own country, like a hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and Flint, which still doesn’t have clean water.

Up here in Ontario, Ford has just announced his government is taking a five-month vacation after spending almost all of his first term cutting vital services. Healthcare, education, legal aid, refugee services, childcare, Indigenous programs, arts and culture, anti-racism initiatives… all of these have been significantly affected in one form or another.

When he was a city councillor before a premier, Ford constantly voted against after-school programs that supported youth from communities that were poor and marginalized. His late brother, Rob Ford, used to call them “Hug a Thug” programs.

In 2014, the two brothers voted against a deal to build a Toronto Raptors practice facility – the OVO Athletic Centre today – at no cost to the city. Now that the Raptors have achieved success, our premier suddenly wants to get in on the spotlight. We are, of course, not having it. Not one bit.

Contrast Ford and Trump to team captain Kyle Lowry, who correctly called Trump’s Muslim travel ban “bullshit” two years ago and is proud to be an icon for young kids today. And Raptors team president Masai Ujiri, who visited the La Loche First Nations community to encourage the youth there to believe in themselves and be proud of their identity.

The Raptors are a team that value dignity, equality and diversity.

Our team shouldn’t be shaking hands with those who actively seek to undermine those values – the very things that have made basketball an athletic and cultural force in Toronto and Canada. Our team shouldn’t associate with men who came into power through wealth and are only interested in the concerns of the powerful and wealthy.

Years from now, when you have all retired and are pursuing other things in your life, this championship  will still reverberate through the streets and parks of Toronto. Books will be written, films will be made. Maybe some statues and street names dedicated, too. You deserve all of these accolades. Trump and Ford don’t deserve to be around you.

We know that our team is confident and proud in who they are. The very team you beat in these finals, the Warriors, have declined to visit the Trump White House in both of the years in which they were champions. We believe our team is equally capable of that task.

Thanks again for the ride.

– We the North

@nowtoronto | @GelekB

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