TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian sports fans cried foul on Friday after the National Basketball Association snubbed local rap star Drake in favor of the British singer Sting to headline the halftime show at its upcoming All-Star Game in Toronto.
Within minutes of the announcement, Twitter posts mocking the league’s decision to go with Sting, a 64-year-old, Grammy Award-winner, since Drake, 29, is the Toronto Raptors’ global ambassador, and will be in his hometown for All-Star Weekend, from Feb. 12-14.
“Canadians have six of the top 10 songs on the Billboard charts right now - and the NBA hires Sting to perform halftime. Brutal,” read a tweet by local sportscaster Jim Lang. “Does anyone under the age of 35 even know who Sting is?”
Drake, a fixture in his courtside seats at Raptors’ games, will nonetheless be involved as the coach of Team Canada, which will include Australian Open semifinalist Milos Raonic and former NBA champion Rick Fox, in the Feb. 12 celebrity game. Comedian Kevin Hart will coach Team USA, which includes actors Michael B. Jordan and Jason Sudeikis.
“Really @Toronto2016? Sting? What were your backup options, Cher and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra? How about some TORONTO talent!” wrote former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on his Twitter page.
Many commentators lamented that the choice was made just months after a similar incident stung Toronto when local talent was shut out and rapper Kanye West was paid to perform at the closing ceremony of the Pan American Games.
The NBA, however, did make some local choices for its lineup of entertainment at the game.
Canadian Nelly Furtado, 37, will sing the national anthem, while Montréal-based acrobatic troupe Cirque de Soleil will perform as part of the festivities culminating in the introduction of the players before tip-off on Feb. 14.
(This version of the story corrects to Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games, in sixth paragraph)
Reporting by Alan Crosby, editing by G Crosse