Earlier this week on Monday, the Toronto Raptors rode through hundreds of thousands of fans during their championship parade atop a double-decker bus. Enormous crowds of people lined the streets and packed Nathan Phillips Square next to City Hall to watch the team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy after winning the NBA Finals last week.
The city was celebrating the Raptors first eastern conference championship and first major championship in more than 20 years.
And very quickly the win became a win for “Canada.” Headlines read “Canadian victory” after words like historic and monumental.
The truth is that the Raptors are the only professional basketball team in the league that is based out of Canada. That is fact.
But another fact is that one of the faces of the Raptors win, Kawhi Leonard, is American. In July of 2018, it was released that upon negotiations of trading Leonard for DeMar DeRozan with the Spurs, Leonard had no desire to play in Toronto.
Kyle Lowry, another fan favourite, is also American and was born in Philadelphia.
So taking a look at the Raptors 2018-2019 listing, it’s very easy to notice that out of the entire roster, none are listed as Canadian.
A talent scout was reported saying that “Canada’s first-ever NBA title will change the tone around basketball from coast to coast.” What is hindering about that statement is that the scout is saying that a team comprised of American players will change the tone for Canada as well. But what about Canadian basketball players?
Looking at a listing online finds that there are only 13 in the NBA and none of them play for Toronto. Thus, Canada is taking credit for the efforts of athletes that aren’t Canadian.
So rather than labelling the Raptors victory as “Canadian,” it should be labelled as a triumph for the only franchise that is based out of Canada. Maybe the credit should also go directly to the players as individual athletes that worked together and brought themselves to the word stage through sheer determination and physical prowess at their sport.
Maybe the higher ups that offered contracts to those athletes to sign with Toronto to create a killer line up should get a little recognition too.
Many of the men that have flourished in the NBA are also men of colour. And they are men of colour that have worked hard and stuck to a grind that not many can in the athletics world, as they are statistically more likely to have started out with a direct disadvantage.
Leonard’s mom, Kim Robertson, had to work during his freshman basketball tryouts at California’s Canyon Springs High School. So he missed the session and the school’s coach refused to let him on the team. He later found an AAU coach and mentor in Marvin Lea and transferred to Riverside’s Martin Luther King High School. He committed himself to basketball and earned a scholarship to San Diego State and bypassed the blue-chip programs that came after him later in the process. However, Leonard’s dad, Mark Leonard, was murdered in 2008 at his car wash in Compton, California. His father was working at the car wash he owned and was trying to finish early to watch his son play basketball when the tragedy occurred. Leonard was just 17 and now throughout the accolades he has since received for his performance in basketball, BR Magazine released that he lives very humbly, with his eyes not on money but on his goals.
This “Canadian” labelling seems to bleed into everything that will make headlines.
Even when an indigenous person living on this side of the border does anything exceptionally worth of recognition or award-winning, they are often labelled as “Canadian indigenous.”
This gives the impression that Canada doesn’t and won’t outwardly mark anything or anyone as one of their own unless it makes the country look good.
The country does this probably for the same reason that it hardly recognizes any of its blemishes. And as indigenous people know all too well, Canada has many.
Let’s not forget how long it took the prime minister, who also sat on stage at the Raptors parade culmination, to use the word “genocide” in regards to MMIW.