Toronto restaurants offering Kawhi Leonard free food for life to stay with Raptors

His game 7 buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers all but ensured that Kawhi Leonard will never have to pay for a meal in Toronto again. Now, a new campaign by Rethink for the Raptors fan site Raptors Republic is hoping to ease the fears of fans who can’t stomach the thought of him leaving.

“Ka’wine & Dine” is urging Toronto restaurants to sign up to offer Leonard free food for life in exchange for re-signing with the Raptors when his contract expires after this season. Restaurants can visit to download a badge they can add to their window, indicating that Leonard’s food is on the house. They can also share their support using the hashtag #KaWineAndDine. Toronto Mayor John Tory shared his support Friday morning.

So far, signatories include Rodney’s Oyster House on King Street and Le Select Bistro on Wellington, as well as a group of smaller independent restaurants.

Adam Robles, head of marketing and social media with Raptors Republic, says the initiative is designed to let Leonard known that the city really wants him here. “He may need a warm coat, but he won’t need his wallet. Lets wine’m, dine’m and let’s re-sign’m.”

Rethink’s Aaron Starkman says creative directors Mike Dubrick and Joel Holtby first had the idea a few months ago.

“But we wanted to wait for the perfect moment to strike,” he says. “And that moment happened after Kawhi created the greatest moment in Raptors history in game 7.

“So many people in the agency are Raptors fans, so we had a mini army to help spread the word and make it big. And it’s been such a fun few days. We can’t wait to see where it goes—ultimately we just want Kawhi to feel the love from the city of Toronto and country of Canada.”

The “Kawhi Question” has loomed large in Raptors’ fans consciousness ever since the blockbuster trade that brought him here last July. Will he re-sign, or will the true King of the North bolt for sunnier climes?

More so than any other North American professional league, the NBA is a superstar league—and Leonard’s performance during the Raptors’ current playoff run has placed him squarely in the middle of the conversation about the league’s best players.

But while Toronto fans are thrilling to Leonard’s post-season performance, they’re also getting increasingly queasy about probably the greatest star in Raptors history (sorry Vince) bolting for another city in the summer.

It has gotten to the point where Leonard’s every action and utterance is now parsed for meaning. He signed up for an HBC rewards card? He’s staying. He bought a $13 million mansion in San Diego? Uh-oh. There are even concerns that unseasonably cool stretch of spring weather will convince the Southern California native to leave.

The goal is that “Ka’wine & Dine” will give the star some food for thought when pondering his next career move.



Chris Powell