By Tom Yun, CTVNews.ca writer
TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — Toronto rap superstar Drake wants to see a professional women’s basketball team in his city.
On Wednesday, the rapper, who also serves as the Toronto Raptors’ global ambassador, posted a message to the WNBA on his Instagram story saying, “I need a Toronto team.”
In 2019, the Raptors brought home the NBA championship for the first time in franchise history. Sports expert Kevin Yeung, who is a content creator with TSN’s BarDown, says the strong appetite for basketball north of the border makes Toronto a strong contender to be an expansion city for the WNBA.
“The way that not just the City of Toronto, but the entire country of Canada, was showing their support for the Raptors, it really proves that there’s a strong basketball audience here,” Yeung told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
Yeung also said that in recent years, there’s been a wave of exciting young Canadians players making waves in both the NBA and the WNBA, such as Jamal Murray and Kia Nurse.
“People just genuinely want to support Canadians in basketball and basketball in Canada. That pipeline is so strong right now and it’s still emerging. It’s absolutely something that you can build going forward,” he said.
“I think from a marketing perspective, it’s absolutely something that the WNBA would want to tap into.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse is also on board with the idea. Nurse told reporters during a post-game news conference that a WNBA team would be “wildly successful” in Toronto.
“I think the women should be represented in Toronto with a WNBA team,” he said.
While the WBNA has not announced any concrete plans, commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters in July that expanding the 12-team league was a priority. The website Front Office Sports also reported that the league had identified Toronto as one of four potential expansion cities.
This also comes at a time when the WNBA is hitting record viewership numbers. In the 2021 season, Canadian viewership during the league’s opening weekend was up 325 per cent, according to the NBA.
“Obviously the league is in a really, really healthy place right now … and I think expansion sometime soon is definitely likely,” Yeung said.
But despite these viewership numbers, the salary disparity between the men’s league and the women’s league remains high. WNBA players make an average of $120,000 annually, compared to $7 million for the average NBA player.
Yeung says expanding the WNBA could help close the pay gap by bringing more revenue into the league.
“As far as closing the rest of that salary gap, it really comes down to bringing more money into the WNBA and building the business of that league. One really big thing for that is going to be expanding the league, tapping into new markets and bringing new cash flow into the league,” he said.
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