Dear Toronto Raptors fans, America doesn’t hate you

Toronto Raptors (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

Toronto Raptors fans are always worried about the American media and a bias against Canada. While the claim isn’t completely baseless, it is often overblown.

I am an American citizen. I grew up in Ohio, about an hour west of Cleveland. Through all my years, I’ve met very few Americans with a strong stance on Canada (positive or negative). I’ve met almost zero with a stance on the Toronto Raptors.

The bottom line is every fanbase likes to think their team is disrespected/receives unfair national attention. The Milwaukee Bucks complained about a lack of respect all season, Los Angeles Lakers fans thought/think Adrian Wojnarowski is out to get them, even New York Knicks fans — the most pathetically run franchise of the past 20 years — think the media bashes them unfairly.

This is all because fans are….well, fans. They view their team in the most positive light. And when the national media doesn’t perceive the team in the same way, conflict arises. To expect fans to act rationally is not very realistic, or even reasonable.

But fans up north carry an entirely different type of fear, the fear of being hated for being an outsider. The fear of being bashed simply for not being, “American”.

Why US fans don’t care

It’s understandable. There are 29 teams in the United States and just one in Canada. If United States fans are going to hate on one team more than others, it would make sense for them to single out the sole franchise north of the border. It’s reasonable why Canadian fans are always concerned.

But that’s just not how most fans think. Other than their favorite team, people rarely base who they “like” and “hate” on the location of the franchise. Instead, fans care about the members of the actual organization. When you think San Antonio Spurs, do you think of The Alamo or Tim Duncan? When you think of the Houston Rockets, do you think James Harden, or whatever is in Houston?

Just last season, 47 of 50 states rooted for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals. Fans weren’t cheering for Toronto over San Francisco. They were cheering for Kawhi Leonard over Stephen Curry (or more aptly, Draymond Green).

There are a few exceptions (Philly and Boston really seem to hate each other), but for the most part, fans care about organizations and players rather than cities. Thinking American fans care what country the Raptors play in is probably reading too deep into it.

Why the media doesn’t hate the Raptors more than anyone else

More than anything, media members just want to be right. Sure, a few Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless types pander to larger market audiences, but most media members tend to give their honest assessment and avoid marketplace bias.

To think that respected national writers such as Zach Lowe, Kevin Pelton, etc. “hate your team” is non-sense. To believe they somehow factor in every market’s size to their basketball opinion/writing is some moon-landing conspiracy stuff.

Writers are wrong all the time, and individually (or even collectively) they might be completely wrong about the Raptors. But being wrong and purposely disrespecting the team are two very different things. National media doesn’t hate the Raptors; they view the team differently because they’re not fans or perhaps because they don’t have time to watch all 82 games. There isn’t a grand conspiracy.

Where the complaints are valid

There are valid concerns if American-born players will ever sign in Toronto the same way they do other cities in the United States. But that’s a conversation for another day. A group (or even the majority) of players not wanting to live in Canada, isn’t the same as actively rooting against the franchise.

Where the Raptors have been “disrespected” in previous years is on the T.V. schedule. Toronto is virtually locked in the NBATV playoff timeslot and have very few nationally televised games this season. The Raptors were kept of Christmas day for what feels like an eternity. It took an actual NBA Championship to earn some respect in that regard.

Due to a difference in how Canadian ratings are viewed compared to American ratings, Toronto is often treated as a small-market franchise despite being the third-largest NBA city (behind New York and Los Angeles).

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But if being treated as a small market is the biggest complaint, things are generally pretty good. Americans don’t hate the Toronto Raptors. In fact, they probably don’t have a strong feeling either way. Toronto is just like every other market.