Toronto and the local public school board will leave basketball nets up through the evening and in the summer months after pushback from some in the community, including the city’s mayor, that children were being denied places to play.
The nets and rims at a number of Toronto District School Board schools had been vandalized or stolen when left up, and late-evening games had been the subject of noise complaints from neighbours. But the school board said on Thursday that all schools with outdoor basketball nets would leave them up for six months and it would evaluate how they fare.
“Young people deserve places to play and if the TDSB can help them by ensuring our basketball nets are up after hours, this is important for us to do,” John Malloy, the board’s education director, said in a statement. “Basketball is only getting more popular in Toronto and we want to provide every opportunity for our communities to join in on the fun.”
The issue of evening and weekend games on school and city property flared up in recent days. Parents at one elementary school complained about the TDSB’s plans to relocate the basketball nets to another location on school property and take down the rims and nets in the evening after residents complained about the noise. In the end, the TDSB did not move the nets.
And a short video on Twitter went viral Wednesday evening that showed what appeared to be a worker removing the net and rim from a basketball hoop in a city park while young people were playing.
The clip sparked widespread backlash online. Canada Basketball responded, “No rim. No history. Everyone deserves the chance to play. Keep the nets up.” The tweet featured a photo of Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer beater shot in the NBA playoffs, but was edited to remove the rim. The Raptors won their first NBA championship earlier this month, captivating the city and the country with their playoff run.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a tweet the city should be encouraging children to play and said he delivered that message to parks staff.
“I opt in favour of positive, fun, healthy activities for kids in our neighbourhoods,” Mr. Tory wrote.
A statement from the city on Thursday said it had suspended the removal of basketball hoops from its parks so residents can enjoy the game into the evening. The hoops would typically be removed around 6 p.m. The city also said it would monitor noise complaints “to ensure everyone is free to enjoy both their parks and their backyards.”
Parent Cindy Wagman acknowledged the noise from children playing basketball on school grounds may disturb some neighbours, especially those who live close by. But, she added, “we need those spaces.”
“There’s not a lot of other space in this little pocket for kids to have that kind of outdoor space,” said Ms. Wagman, who lives in the city’s east end. “And it’s really important not just for the school-age kids, but for the whole community.”
Ms. Wagman helped organize a protest – a “basketball-in” – earlier this week at Dundas Junior Public School, near Dundas Street East and Broadview Avenue. Parents were able to persuade the TDSB to keep its newly installed basketball nets in place despite the noise complaints.
Ms. Wagman said her young children have been caught up in Raptors fever and have asked to take their basketballs to the school in the evenings. She said she was pleased the TDSB was allowing the nets to remain up.
“It’s a space that brings the kids together and gets them out of the house, off their screens and playing with their friends," she said.
Tiffany Ford, a former trustee at the school board, said during her time as an elected official, she received a number of complaints from constituents who wanted the basketball nets removed from a local school in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood. They would tell her the nets were attracting the “wrong type of crowd” and that they didn’t want to deal with shootings. They would complain about the noise, as well.
“These types of statements that I was hearing were really frustrating, because basketball was life for me growing up. It was a great way to have fun,” Ms. Ford said.
She said schools should be community hubs and keeping the basketball nets in place allows for that to happen.
“I kept them on because it’s a public space and it’s a community space and people should be able to play basketball whenever they want,” she said.