SBD/September 30, 2013/Franchises

Raptors Team With Toronto-Born Rapper Drake To Redesign Club's Image

Drake also will launch a clothing line in conjunction with the team
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment today will announce "the first of several initiatives" with rapper Drake, which "will see him acting as a host, business partner and consultant for the team," according to Cathal Kelly of the TORONTO STAR. In a league "driven by shiny-object syndrome, the Toronto-born musician has always had an earthy feel to his fandom." Drake over the years has been "a regular in the courtside seats." When he attends Raptors games, he "usually sits a few chairs over" from Bell President & CEO George Cope, "the guiding force in the MLSE boardroom." Drake will be "drafted in as a non-official host of festivities" and will "launch a clothing line in conjunction with the team." Kelly writes, "Most intriguingly, he is being asked to consult on a complete redesign of the club’s image to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the franchise" in the '14-15 season. Sources said that "everything about the team is on the table ... aside from the name." Drake is "already doing" many things similar to what Jay Z has done with the Nets "for free, but it’s never been directional." Now Drake "has the ear" of MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke (TORONTO STAR, 9/30). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur wrote Drake's role with the Raptors "will be an attempt to make them cool." In the "best-case scenario Drake becomes the conduit from the Raptors to players who might be enticed to accept a trade to Toronto (possible), to sign here as a free agent (less likely), who might be susceptible to a personal sales pitch from someone whose work and fame they admire and respect" (NATIONAL POST, 9/29). The GLOBE & MAIL's Robert MacLeod writes perhaps it "should not come as a huge shock for Leiweke to engage the services" of Drake in an effort to "help rebrand the fading image of an NBA club that has dulled considerably since the salad days of Vince Carter" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/30).

WINNING BY LOSING? The GLOBE & MAIL's MacLeod writes there are "rumblings that it would be in the best interests" of the Raptors, who have "missed the playoffs for the past five seasons, to shoot for six in order to give themselves an opportunity to get" Univ. of Kansas F Andrew Wiggins in the NBA Draft. MacLeod: "What better way to appease a frustrated fan base [than] with the addition of a homegrown talent who has been one of the most hyped NBA prospects since LeBron James?" Raptors President & GM Masai Ujiri on Friday "would not enter into a discussion involving tanking in sports when asked about it," but offered an "intriguing answer when he was asked how he would feel if the Raptors were to fall into the NBA’s draft lottery in his first year in charge." Ujiri said, "It would be a fantastic season" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/30).

LEAFS LEADER: SPORTSNET.ca's Michael Grange writes this week "begins Leiweke's rookie season," as Raptors training camp opens today and the Maple Leafs' season starts tomorrow night. What the week "really means is that the cement is now dry on Leiweke's status as the man to lead any or all of MLSE's sports teams to the Promised Land." He has "fired some executives (TFC’s Kevin Payne), pushed out others (former Raptors’ president Bryan Colangelo) and had others leave without ceremony (MLSE’s interim president and chief operating officer Tom Anselmi and others within the MLSE hierarchy)." He has "left the Leafs largely untouched." Leiweke after a "whirlwind off-season" is "beginning to settle into his new job and his new life." His family has "joined him in Toronto." Leiweke "can't say" how long "he'll call Toronto home" (SPORTSNET.ca, 9/30).
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