Toronto mayor de­fends ‘cheer­ing’ Raptor fans

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - PAOLA LORIGGIO

The mayor of Toronto is de­fend­ing his city’s bas­ket­ball fans, say­ing cheers from Rap­tors sup­port­ers when a star Golden State War­riors player got in­jured in Mon­day’s nail­biter NBA play­off game are be­ing “over­stated.”

Large sec­tions of Rap­tors fans at the Sco­tia­bank Arena in Toronto ini­tially cheered when Kevin Du­rant went down clutch­ing his Achilles ten­don, sens­ing that an in­jured Du­rant could ease their path to vic­tory. One more win and the cham­pi­onship tro­phy would be hoisted in Canada for the first time.

It took a few of Toronto’s own play­ers, in­clud­ing Kyle Lowry and Danny Green, to stand up to quiet the crowd, know­ing that Du­rant was in se­ri­ous pain as he was helped off the court and straight to the locker room.

The cheers then gave way to an eerie si­lence, or about as silent as 20,000 bas­ket­ball fans can be.

That was fol­lowed by more sup­port­ive chants of “KD, KD.”

The in­ci­dent drew crit­i­cism from some Golden State play­ers and ob­servers, in­clud­ing many on so­cial me­dia.

But Toronto Mayor John Tory stressed Tues­day that while any crowd may con­tain some who re­act the wrong way, the “vast ma­jor­ity” of peo­ple at Mon­day’s Game 5 of the NBA Fi­nals acted like good sports fans.

“I was in the arena and it hap­pened right at the end of a play and peo­ple were cheer­ing at the end of the play, but very quickly after that (Du­rant) got a very warm round of ap­plause as he was taken on to the dress­ing room — as he should, he’s a su­per­star, and nobody wants to see him hurt,” Tory said.

It’s im­por­tant not to overblow such incidents or make gen­er­al­iza­tions about what Toronto sports fans are like, the mayor added.

“Toronto sports fans are good fans, they’re con­sid­er­ate fans,” Tory said. “They un­der­stand a su­per­star when they see one and I think that’s the kind of ap­plause he got as he left the arena.”

Du­rant, who missed the first four games of this fi­nal se­ries with a de­bil­i­tat­ing calf injury, had come back for Game 5 in a bid to help his team stave off elim­i­na­tion. After a blaz­ing start in which he scored 11 points in just 12 min­utes of play­ing time, he buck­led in the cor­ner of the court, un­touched.

The ini­tial fear is that Du­rant tore his Achilles ten­don, an injury that typ­i­cally re­quires a 12-month re­cov­ery and could erase his en­tire 2019-20 sea­son.

“I don’t think fans knew of the sig­nif­i­cance of the injury,” Lowry told re­porters after his team fell 106-105 to the War­riors. “In this league, we’re all brothers, and it’s a small broth­er­hood and you never want to see a com­peti­tor like him go down.”

Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who lived in Toronto when his fa­ther played for the Rap­tors from 1999-2002, said that the cheers left him “con­fused.”

“It’s not my ex­pe­ri­ence with the peo­ple of this city,” said Curr y, whose wife, Aye­sha Curry, grew up in nearby Markham, Ont. “I just hope that ug­li­ness doesn’t show it­self again as we go for­ward in this se­ries.”

Curry took the un­usual step of fol­low­ing Du­rant off the court even though he was still in the game. “Some­times the spirit tells you what to do,” said Curry.

At least one Toronto fan set out to sal­vage Raptor Na­tion’s rep­u­ta­tion by launch­ing an on­line fundraiser for the Kevin Du­rant Char­ity Foundation, which helps atrisk youth.

“We’re sorry that some fans of Raptor Na­tion at the Sco­tia­bank arena, Juras­sic Park, and in some bars/restau­rants show­ing the game, dis­played an ugly side of fan­dom when they cheered on the injury of Kevin Du­rant,” says the fundraiser on Go­fundme. “This isn’t cool. This isn’t right. This isn’t what I ex­pect from fel­low Cana­di­ans.”

Game 6 of the se­ries goes Thurs­day in Oak­land, Calif.

CLAUS AN­DER­SEN / GETTY IM­AGES

Golden State su­per­star Kevin Du­rant got off to a tor­rid start in Game 5 of the NBA Fi­nals on Mon­day night be­fore leav­ing with an injury. It’s feared Du­rant tore his Achilles ten­don, which would end his se­ries and pos­si­bly wipe out his en­tire 2019-20 sea­son.

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