NEWS
06/15/2019 17:55 EDT | Updated 06/16/2019 07:48 EDT

Toronto Raptors Should Visit Parliament Instead Of White House, Jim Watson Says

"Come to Ottawa... so Canada can congratulate you!"

The Toronto Raptors are officially NBA champions, and with that accomplishment comes a question.

Will the first non-American team to win the basketball title visit the White House, as is tradition?

Not if Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has anything to say about it.

Watson tweeted on Friday that he wants the Toronto team to skip visiting U.S. President Donald Trump and come to Ottawa instead. He also encouraged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to extend a formal invite.

He doubled down on the idea at an event celebrating the city of Ottawa hitting a population of 1 million people.

“I tweeted out today... forget going to the White House, come to Parliament Hill and we’ll celebrate the Raptors. I’m sure Donald Trump appreciated that very much,” said Watson, who has been critical of the president in the past.

Jim Watson/Twitter
A photo posted to Jim Watson's Twitter account on Friday of him calling Toronto Mayor John Tory and congratulating him on the Raptors becoming NBA champions.

For his part, Trump has not congratulated the Raptors on social media for their victory.

In 2017, the Golden State Warriors turned down the opportunity to visit Trump after they won the championship, and the president later rescinded the invite. He didn’t bother inviting them in 2018 when they took the title again.

Precedent on a White House invite for Canadian teams is a little muddy. When the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992, they visited then-president George H.W. Bush at the White House. After their victory the following year, the Jays did not repeat a visit to the White House. The 1993 Stanley Cup champs, the Montreal Canadiens, didn’t pay Bill Clinton a visit either, although Sports Illustrated reported that both teams were invited.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
George H. W. Bush, left, accepts a Toronto Blue Jays Jersey from Jays Joe Carter, right, during a ceremony honouring baseball's World Champs at the White House on Dec. 16, 1992.

The Blue Jays were, however, invited to a reception hosted by former governor general Ramon Hnatyshyn at Rideau Hall after their 1992 win, the Globe and Mail wrote.

Before the Raptors won the series, a representative for the prime minister told CBC News that an invite to Ottawa this time around was more than likely.

“All Canadians are behind the Toronto Raptors, and we are cheering them on every step of the way. The team has already made history, and we would absolutely be honoured to invite them to Parliament.”

HuffPost Canada reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office to see if Trudeau had any invite in the works now that the Raptors have secured their victory, but a representative did not share any updates. Parliament is set to rise next week.

Trudeau-Pelosi bet

It might just be that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is too busy holding the victory over U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s head to formally extend the invitation, since he and Pelosi had a fairly high-stakes bet on the game.

Pelosi, who is from San Francisco and an ardent Golden State Warriors fan, bet some Ghirardelli chocolate, California wine and a smattering of almonds and walnuts from her home state, while Trudeau put smoked Atlantic salmon, treats from Peace by Chocolates, St-Viateur Bagels, Pansawan dry bison meat, Nanaimo bars, and Ontario craft beer on the table.

In true Canadian fashion, Trudeau apologized to Pelosi for her loss and then helpfully reminded her that he prefers dark chocolate.

With a file from the Canadian Press

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