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Moussa Sangaré-Ponce defends patriotism and a sports fan’s right to choose

You can question a person’s choice of their favourite sports team, but please don’t question that person’s love of their country.

Of the four major professional leagues that dominate the sports scene in North America, the NFL is the only one that does not have a franchise in Canada. The NHL is the most popular league this side of the border, with seven Canadian teams, and the NBA and MLB both have franchises in Canada.

The Raptors and Blue Jays both play in Toronto and are widely considered by major networks and fans from Vancouver to Halifax as Canada’s team in their respective sports. Whether they are fervent or casual, a great number of sports fans find themselves cheering for these two teams for no other reasons than they are the only major basketball and baseball franchises in Canada.

Everyone has a right to cheer for who they want, and criticize other people for their sports allegiances. But cheering for the Raptors, or Blue Jays does not give you the right to  question somebody’s patriotism.

I have often been told I should support the Raptors and Jays simply because they are the only Canadian teams, and have had my patriotism questioned because my allegiance lies not with them, but with the Miami Heat and New York Yankees.

I became a Heat fan following the trade that sent one of my childhood heroes Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers to the Heat. The year I started to invest myself in baseball, the Yankees won the championship, so I took a liking to them.

If the Raptors would have acquired Shaq, or if the Jays would have been contenders in 2009, maybe I would be cheering for them.

For the record, I did cheer for a Canadian baseball team once. But until the Expos return to Montreal, I will root for the Yankees.

Regardless of my reasons, I am not any less Canadian than the next guy. If an NFL team moved to Canada, would it be my patriotic duty to stop cheering for the San-Diego Chargers and immediately support that Canadian franchise?

I guarantee you, if there was only one NHL franchise in Canada and it was the Toronto Maple Leafs, most hockey fans in this country would support an American team.

So, why are those who support American teams criticized? Are others furious because the lone teams in this country have been irrelevant for so long, while teams like the Heat and Yankees are contenders year in and year out?

I’m not dissing the Jays, the Raps, or their fans. I like the Jays — the only NBA game I attended was a Raptors game. To question my love of my country because I love the Heat and Yankees is ludicrous. I proudly remove my cap and sing along — in both official languages — when the national anthem is played, I woke up at 6:45 a.m. to watch the Olympic gold medal game, I exercise my right to vote, and I love Tim Hortons.

Just because I took my fandom to California, South Beach, and the “Evil Empire” does not mean I don’t love my country. I am Canadian, and part of being a citizen is exercising my freedom of speech and having the right to choose things for myself.