Two Toronto Raptors fans think their ‘Free Our Hostages’ hoodie should be exempt from political messages ban

Gary J. Grill
Toronto lawyer Gary J. Grill being confronted by arena security and asked to remove his offending hoodie, or leave the Scotiabank Arena, on Feb. 22, 2024. Friend Leora Shemesh (right) was with him at the game between the Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets. (Brandon Carson photo)

Gary Grill and Leora Shemesh want an apology from the owners of the Toronto Raptors basketball team, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. On Feb. 22, security at Scotiabank Arena asked Grill to remove his black-and-white “Free Our Hostages” sweatshirt while the two were watching the Raptors play the Brooklyn Nets at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The reason given? Because it was “political”.

On principle, Grill chose to leave, rather than remove his hoodie–a gift from Shemesh. Now the friends, who are both criminal defence lawyers, are calling the act discrimination—even though MLSE’s website clearly prohibits fans having “signs, symbols or images for commercial or political purposes”. Despite the longstanding ban, which is common among sports arenas and not unique to Toronto, Grill and Shemesh say they could take legal action.

Did they know about the rule but choose to ignore it? Was this a stunt to provoke attention to the plight of the 140 hostages still held in captivity by Hamas? Or was it a genuinely unexpected brush with an overzealous security officer? Grill and Shemesh join The CJN Daily to explain what happened, why they went public afterword, and whether this is good for the Jews.

Related links

  • Read MLSE’s code of conduct
  • Why Phoebe Maltz Bovy was triggered by Kiana Ledé wearing a Keffiyeh to sing the U.S. national anthem at the NHL All-Star game, in The CJN
  • Why the Toronto Raptors never went on their promised trip to Israel after winning the NBA championship in 2019, in The CJN


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here. Hear why The CJN is important to me.