Toronto Raptors bring training camp, and anti-hate message, to London – London Free Press (Blogs)

Author of the article:

Postmedia staff

Publishing date:

Oct 02, 2021  •  13 hours ago  •  2 minute read  •  7 Comments

Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes controls the ball during a team scrimmage at Budweiser Gardens in London on Saturday Oct 2, 2021. (Canadian Press)
Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes controls the ball during a team scrimmage at Budweiser Gardens in London on Saturday Oct 2, 2021. (Canadian Press) Photo by Nicole Osborne /The Canadian Press

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The Toronto Raptors took the tail-end of training camp on the road Saturday for a very particular purpose.

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The destination was London, home to an alleged attack on June 6 – four months ago, almost to the day – that killed four members of a Muslim family, left a fifth an orphan and stunned the country.

Police have alleged they were struck and killed by a driver who targeted them because of their religion.

The Raptors wanted their voices heard, so they packed up the whole operation and made the two-hour drive west to make their statement during an open practice at Budweiser Gardens on Saturday.

“We can only do so much and be so many places at once but I thought it was just a nice gesture to make our way, a short drive down to just show where we stand on things and just make it clear that we’re against all forms of hate,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said.

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“We definitely stand with the Muslim community – and all people, but the Muslim community that was affected here in London. It was important for us to show that we stand for them and we stand against hatred and just make it clear, that clear distinction: This is who we are, this what we’re about.”

Head coach Nick Nurse took the mic before an entertaining scrimmage to tell the sellout crowd of 2,650 why his team made the journey.

“I always do an organizational-wide meeting before we kick off training camp,” Nurse said afterwards. “It’s always about things we’re planning on doing and the vision and on the basketball court, but we put way up there at the top that we would want to be world leaders for social justice. We think we’ve done some good things; we think we’re uniquely placed – we do have players from all over the world and coaches and staff from all over the world.

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“We wanted to come here and again we think it gives us a chance, mainly to use our platform to talk about these issues and let everybody know they’re welcome, you know, we know we welcome everyone in the Raptors fanbase. And it’s a good chance for us to talk about that.”

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15, and Salman Afzaal’s mother Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed in the hit-and-run crash along Hyde Park Road on the evening of June 6. A fifth family member, Fayez, 9, was seriously injured.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

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