Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia and Toronto Mayor John Tory are asking Torontonians to leave Kawhi Leonard alone as he decides his basketball future and instead sign a petition to encourage him to consider staying in the city.
Bhatia and Tory, along with Paramount Foods founder Mohamad Fakih, launched the online petition at a news conference on Saturday morning.
The site, kawhiushouldstay.com, allows fans and supporters to write a message to Kawhi, which Bhatia vowed would be passed on to the two-time NBA Finals MVP.
"This represents a way in which we can be passionate about getting Kawhi Leonard to stay in Toronto, but do it the Toronto way," Tory told reporters.
A petition is a "quiet" way to support Leonard, he added, while letting him explore the city during the off-season as he decides his future.
The Raptors' championship run culminated on Monday with an hours-long parade through city streets capped off by a rally at Nathan Phillips Square.
Since then, Leonard has been spotted around town, including having dinner at local restaurants and enjoying a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. (There's no word yet on whether he has taken advantage of the "Ka-wine and Dine" promotion that offers Leonard a free meal at participating restaurants.)
With think pieces analyzing Leonard's choices about his future and pictures popping up online of him at dinner at places such as the Cactus Club, Tory and Bhatia are advising Torontians to play it cool.
"We are not giving him the space which he deserves," Bhatia said, adding he understands fans' excitement.
But he's asking them not to ask Leonard for autographs or photos if they spot him around town. Rather, he suggests congratulating and thanking him for the Raptors' first NBA championship and move on.
"Let him enjoy the city right now," Bhatia said. "Let him enjoy his privacy right now with his family. And just leave him alone."
Editor: Yuan Yue