Pair of Canadian entrepreneurs launch Toronto bid for WNBA franchise


Canada’s Kia Nurse. (Jessica Hill/AP)

The Toronto Raptors gave the city its first-ever NBA championship.

And now a pair of Toronto-based tech entrepreneurs want to give the city the opportunity to chase another a pro basketball title.

On Monday, it was revealed that Daniel Escott and Max Abrahams of advertising agency New Media Group, have launched a bid to bring a WNBA team to Toronto.

“Buoyed by the world championship performance of the Toronto Raptors, coupled with a dynamic rise in the popularity and notoriety of Canadian basketball at all levels, the time is now to expand Canada’s professional footprint,” says a press release sent by WNBATO, the bid committee’s name.

“Toronto’s credibility as a professional basketball market has never been higher on the world stage and the time is now for a women’s team to join its NBA counterpart in the Six.”

“We actually started working on developing our bid early April,” said Escott in an interview he and Abrahams did with The Gist. “At that time, the Raptors winning a championship was a pipe dream and so was this WNBA bid. But, the stars have seemed to aligned here.”

Escott and Abrahams admit they don’t have much experience launching a sports franchise, but believe they’ll be able to rely on their business acumen to get things off the ground smoothly.

“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,” said Abrahams.

“While we don’t have experience building a sports franchise, we do have experience in starting multiple businesses, in surrounding ourselves with great people and both Dan and I have been studying marketing, communications and sports marketing for quite some time. We’ve put together a really great advisory board complete with former Olympians, players and business leaders.”

More importantly than just operation of the club, Escott and Abrahams are hoping to accomplish so much more than just run a successful business with this bid for a WNBA team in Toronto.

“This isn’t just a business opportunity. This is an opportunity to inspire a new generation of women and girls in sport,” said Escott in the press release. “Twenty years from now, we want to trace the success of Canada’s finest athletes to this moment.”

Added Escott, again, from the interview with The Gist: “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 only pro-sports are not representative of our nation’s population and mosaic.”

Canada boasts some of the best women’s basketball players in the world with four currently playing in the WNBA: Natalie Achonwa (Indiana Fever), Bridget Carleton (Connecticut Sun), Kia Nurse (New York Liberty) and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (New York Liberty).

It’s because of these athletes, that Escott and Abrahams are trying to assemble this bid.

“This all started with a conversation I had with one of my high school friends Sami Hill, who plays professionally overseas and for Team Canada,” said Abrahams. “Two of her former teammates had just been drafted to the WNBA, one being Ontario-native Bridget Carleton. After a quick back and forth with Sami it hit me that this needs to be done, and I could either read about it in two years or make it happen immediately for our city and country.”

The bid is expected to be presented to the WNBA for consideration before the end of this summer.

There’s no involvement with Raptors ownership group Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

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