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Nick Nurse criticized FIBA’s rigidity amid a global pandemic after the world governing body for basketball sanctioned Canada Basketball for missing games.

Canada Basketball is appealing sanctions levelled by FIBA after the country pulled out of two FIBA AmeriCup 2022 qualifying games in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My reaction is twofold. First of all I back the decision by Canada Basketball to do what they did. It was all about player safety for us. We just didn’t feel like we could execute it as safe as we wanted to at that point, which I think is understandable,” said Nurse, who’s head coach of both Canada’s men’s team and the Toronto Raptors.

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“On the other side of the coin, it’s disappointing that FIBA fines us and docks a point. I think it’s unique times that maybe call for some unique situations.”

FIBA announced Wednesday that Canada Basketball has been fined 160,000 Swiss francs ($227,138) and docked a point in the standings for withdrawing from games against Cuba on Nov. 29 and the US Virgin Islands on Nov. 30.

Half of the fine and loss of the standing point have been deferred, contingent on Canada Basketball meeting its obligations at the next FIBA competition.

The games were to be held in a bubble format in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, but Canada’s governing body said at the time that participating would have contradicted health and safety and travel regulations in place due to the pandemic.

“In the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic that has claimed the lives of over two million people around the world, and infected 96 million more, never did we think we’d be forced to make a decision between the well-being of players and staff, and sanctioning for an inability to safely participate in an international competition,” Canada Basketball said in a statement.

The organization added the fine will “have a significant, negative impact on our operational capacity, diverting funds which exist to continue our long-held mandate of growing our game at a grassroots level in Canada, while also funding high performance programs to compete in upcoming international competitions.”

Provided Canada retains the standings point, it sits fourth in its qualifying group with three points from two games. Dominican Republic leads with seven points from four games, and Cuba and the U.S. Virgin Islands each have four points from three games.

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Canada is slated to play four games in the next qualifying window, starting with a match with the U.S. Virgin Islands Feb. 17 and a meeting with Cuba a day later.

“We look forward to get back to playing, hopefully, in February and getting on to the Olympic qualifier and going from there,” Nurse said.

The top three teams at the qualifying tournament will advance to the FIBA AmeriCup, which is scheduled to take place next September.

Canada is hosting a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament June 29-July 1. The Canadians must win the event to clinch a spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

FIBA also sanctioned China, Taiwan and Korea for skipping their second window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers in November.

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