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Nav Bhatia, the official ‘Superfan’ of the Toronto Raptors, has turned down the Global Indian Award a day after accepting it. The Canada-India Foundation had conferred the $50,000 award on Bhatia at its virtual gala.
Bhatia, who has attended every Raptors home game in the franchise’s 25 year history, became the first fan to receive a championship ring after the team won the NBA Championship during the 2018-2019 season. This year, he was honoured by the Basketball Hall of Fame as a superfan.
He is the founder of the Superfan Foundation and is known for advocating the role of sports in building communities, spending over $300,000 every year to send children to Raptors games.
Accepting the award, Bhatia said in his pre-recorded speech that he was greatly honoured to join the company of previous awardees like Ratan Tata, Deepak Chopra, Narayana Murthy, and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
As each past honouree has donated the award money to charities, Bhatia too pledged it to his ‘Daughters of India Initiative’ to build school washrooms for rural girls in Punjab and Rajasthan.
But a day later, Bhatia refused to accept the award, ostensibly in support of the farmers’ agitation in India.
“I watched my pre-recorded acceptance speech and the show for the first time like many. The past 24 hours were supposed to be a celebration for all those little girls in Rajasthan but it has been far from that. I was made privy at this point to a lot of new information… I even visited the CIF (Canada India Foundation) offices to understand their exact stance on many issues,” Bhatia said.
— Nav Bhatia Superfan (@superfan_nav) December 29, 2020
Calling himself a proud Sikh, he explained that he could not currently accept the award with the farmers protests still underway in India.
“I stay away from politics to be honest. But I am a proud Sikh. And that is first and foremost. As a result, my heart cannot accept this award at this time. Not while my brothers and sisters across India are in pain. I stand with all of the farmers of India. I pray for a safe and peaceful resolve,” he said.
The Canada-India Foundation, a Toronto-based Indo-Canadian advocacy group, has honoured an outstanding Indian face each year with its Global Indian Award since 2009.
According to Bhatia, it would be great if the Canada-India Foundation “would like to continue with their donation”, however he would personally donate the $50,000 to the project if they didn’t.