Ownership group making efforts to bring WNBA to Toronto

Photo Credit: David Cooper/Toronto Star/Getty Images


The GTA.

The 6ix.



Could this the next market that calls a WNBA team home? If a pair of Canadian tech executives have their way, a team in Toronto will be a reality.

Max Abrahams and Daniel Escott announced themselves as founders of the WNBA Toronto Bid Leadership Committee in an interview with Canada’s The Gist. In that interview, they went in depth on why they believe now is as good a time as any for the nation’s first team.

…Earlier this year I was messaging one of my best friends from high school, Sami Hill. Sami plays for the Canadian women’s national basketball team and plays professionally in Germany. We were talking about how two of her friends were recently drafted into the WNBA. I said to Sami ‘we should bring a WNBA team to Toronto.’

–Max Abrahams, co-founder, WNBA Toronto Bid Leadership Committee

His follow up text to Escott read like this…

If we don’t do this (bid for a WNBA Toronto team) now, we’re going to hear about it a year from now. So let’s do it.

The two say they are building on their entrepreneurial, sports marketing and communications acumen to make their bid for a Toronto team and have said they have an advisory board that includes players, former Olympians and business leaders.

Escott also believes that the momentum for Canadian basketball is only going up on the heels of the Raptors’ NBA championship.

We actually started working on developing our bid early April. At that point we were just hoping the Raptors would win the Eastern Conference let alone win the championship. At that time, the Raptors winning a championship was a pipe dream and so was this WNBA bid. But the starts seemed to have aligned here.

–Daniel Escott, co-founder, WNBA Toronto Bid Leadership Committee

The two were asked, though, if the team would actually feature any Canadian players.

It’s also not only about having Canadians on the roster. It’s about having young girls and women have a team that they can dream of being on and see that it’s attainable to achieve their goal of making it to the WNBA.

–Daniel Escott, co-founder, WNBA Toronto Bid Leadership Committee


Another thing that is driving their bid is the concept of bringing the WNBA to Canada so the country can have more access to the league. Clearly, as evidenced by the W’s new television deal with TSN, SportsNet and NBA TV Canada, the WNBA is enamored by Canada and Canada is enamored by the WNBA.

…because the WNBA is a U.S.-based league right now, there is a barrier to becoming/being fans in Canada because none of the games are actually aired on Canadian TV networks and there’s no mainstream vertical to consume it.

–Max Abrahams, co-founder, WNBA Toronto Bid Leadership Committee

We’re not just bringing a team to Canada, we’re bringing the WNBA to Canada.

–Daniel Escott, co-founder, WNBA Toronto Bid Leadership Committee

The prospective owners said that they are aiming for next year to bring a team to Toronto. In order for there to be a team, there has to be a venue. Abrahams and Escott told The Gist that they are in talks with various venues in the Toronto area.

With the WNBA being a summer league it doesn’t really conflict with any other major sports league. Sometimes venues are just sitting as dead assets over the summer. So we want to help and take advantage of resources that are already there.

–Daniel Escott, co-founder, WNBA Toronto Bid Leadership Committee

Both owners believe a WNBA team has a higher upside than the CWHL which recently folded because of the social media followings of WNBA players that are larger than those for the CWHL.

There are also social media pages for the bid – including @WNBAToronto on Twitter and Facebook, @WNBATO on Instagram and at wnbatoronto.com.

They also hinted in the interview that they want to be innovative on how fans would be able to access the team’s games, but one huge thing Escott mentioned was the effect it would have on young girls in Canada that would be looking to get into sports.

The reality is that representation matters. When people look at professional sports and all they see are men, there’s a question from women and others – where do I fit in this? Where can I see myself in sports? And men’s sports are not representative of our nation’s population and mosaic.

–Daniel Escott, co-founder, WNBA Toronto Bid Leadership Committee

The prospective owners believe the success of the bid will ride on the country unifying behind it. Escott and Abrahams are partners at the New Media Group, a Toronto-based advertising agency.

Recently, WNBA COO Christy Hedgpeth, to the CBC, repeated a line that is very common when W brass is asked about the concept of expansion – that it is not something that is being explored and that the first priority is the health of all 12 incumbent franchises.

She repeated something similar when asked about the idea by High Post Hoops but who knows what the WNBA’s incoming commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, will have to say about the issue when she takes over in a few weeks.

The maxim that priority No. 1 is the health of the 12 current organizations may be true, but there should be little question that the WNBA as a whole would be helped if they were to expand into new markets such as Toronto and San Francisco Bay Area.

Toronto’s bid is independent of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Raptors and Scotiabank Arena.

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