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Toronto Removed Basketball Hoops From Parks Every Day. Then A Tweet Called It Out

City workers in Toronto removed basketball hoops each evening from some city parks because of noise complaints. After an outcry, the city says the rims will stay up.
Hakan Dahlstrom
City workers in Toronto removed basketball hoops each evening from some city parks because of noise complaints. After an outcry, the city says the rims will stay up.

The Toronto Raptors won the NBA Championship earlier this month, and the team's thrilling run has boosted the city's excitement about basketball to a new level.

But you wouldn't know it, watching a video posted this week of a Toronto city worker removing a basketball hoop from an outdoor court at one of the city's parks.

As a child dribbles a ball on a gorgeous sunny day, the worker takes down the rims, leaving nothing but backboard.

A young man assures the camera that even without the hoops, "I can have just as much fun out here." He goes in for the layup ... but there's nowhere to put the ball. It ricochets off the backboard.

The hoops' removal wasn't a one-off, captured by chance: It was policy. For years, city workers have removed the hoops each evening from some Toronto parks, in response to noise complaints from neighbors.

City spokesperson Brad Ross told Toronto's Star newspaper that crews "would make their way to various parkettes ... and remove the nets and replace them the next day to mitigate noise complaints."

Then came Mitch Robson's tweet on Wednesday, which made the Canadian city look, well, somewhat hostile to joy and exercise. As of Friday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 1.5 million times.

Canada's basketball governing body soon weighed in, posting a doctored photo showing the Raptors playing on a basket without a hoop. "No rim. No history. Everyone deserves the chance to play. Keep the nets up," it urged.

The city responded quickly.

Within hours, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced his disapproval of the practice.

"The City should be putting basketball nets up not pulling them down," he tweeted. "I've delivered that message to our parks staff tonight — they agree. We should absolutely be encouraging kids to play in our city."

The city released a statement the next morning discontinuing the practice, explaining that it had stemmed from an attempt "to balance the rights of everyone to enjoy Toronto's parks – and play basketball – with the rights of residents adjacent to those parks when it comes to noise."

Hoops had been removed only from parks close to homes, the city said, but it now recognized that taking them down at 6 p.m. "is not reasonable."

Effective immediately, the city said it would suspend hoop removal "so residents can continue to enjoy a game of basketball into the evening."

The Toronto District School Board also announced that it would leave up its basketball nets outside school hours — though it said the move would be a "6-month pilot project to better understand any potential issues."

Not everyone was impressed. "Where was this 20 years ago when I was in school," one person tweeted. "Took them down every year in scarborough. All it took was an nba championship and social media. SMH."

Robson, who posted the initial video of the rims being removed, posteda photo the next day that suggested the city was following through on its vow.

"The rim is back up and looking majestic at Phin Park, according to my sources," he wrote. "Let's hope it stays up past 6:00pm!"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.