The NBA has fined Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard $50,000 and suspended him from all team facilities and activities for one week after he used an anti-Semitic slur during a live video game stream.
‘Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful and such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society,’ NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
‘Yesterday, he spoke to representatives of the Anti-Defamation League to better understand the impact of his words and we accept that he is genuinely remorseful. We have further communicated to Meyers that derogatory comments like this will not be tolerated and that he will be expected to uphold the core values of our league – equality, tolerance, inclusion and respect – at all times moving forward.’
The 29-year-old was playing ‘Call of Duty’ on the website, Twitch, when he was caught saying a derogatory term for a Jewish person. He has since issued an apology, claiming he did not know what the word meant.
‘F***ing cowards,’ Leonard is heard saying during the live stream. ‘Don’t f***ing snipe me, you f***ing k*** b****.’
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Leonard was heard using an anti-Semitic slur during a live video game stream on Tuesday
The 29-year-old Leonard was playing ‘Call of Duty’ on the website, Twitch, when he was caught saying ‘k***’ – a derogatory term for a Jewish person
Leonard released a statement Tuesday night claiming he didn’t know what the word meant
The club, which is owned by Israeli-American businessman Micky Arison, responded to the incident on Tuesday night.
‘The Miami HEAT vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech,’ read a team statement.
‘The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise. To hear it from a Miami HEAT player is especially disappointing and hurtful to all those who work here, as well as the larger South Florida, Miami HEAT and NBA communities.
‘Meyers Leonard will be away from the team indefinitely. The Miami HEAT will cooperate with the NBA while it conducts its investigation.’
NBA spokesman Mike Bass announced that investigation Tuesday, saying the league ‘unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech.’
The Heat are owned by Israeli-American businessman Micky Arison (pictured)
Leonard released a statement Tuesday night claiming he didn’t know what the word meant.
‘I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during the livestream yesterday. While I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong.
‘I am now more aware of its meaning and I am committed to properly seeking out people who can help educate me about this type of hate and how we can fight it. I acknowledge and own my mistake an there’s no running from something like this that is so hurtful to someone else.
‘This is not a proper representation of who I am and I want to apologize to [Miami Heat owner Micky Arison and his family], my teammates, coaches, front office, and everyone associated with the Miami Heat organization, to my family, to our loyal fans and to others in the Jewish community who I have hurt.
‘I promise to do better and know that my future actions will be more powerful than my use of this word.’
Meyers Leonard stands with kneeling teammates during the national anthem before an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat on September 8
Leonard is not well known beyond basketball fans, but gained some nationwide notoriety during the NBA’s 2019-20 season restart last summer when he decided to stand for the national anthem as his Miami teammates knelt to protest racism.
He explained his decision in August, saying that he could be a patriot while supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult,’ Leonard told The Associated Press prior to a game inside the league bubble in Orlando. ‘I am with the Black Lives Matter movement and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country.’
Leonard is currently out for the remainder of the season because of a shoulder injury.
The 7-foot former University of Illinois star was taken with the 11th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft by Portland, where he played most of his career.
Leonard has earned nearly $60 million over nine NBA seasons, the last two of which have come in Miami. The Heat have a team option on his contract for next season, meaning the club can cut him and save around $10 million.
He has recently become a popular attraction on Twitch, which allows viewers to watch live gamers. He has 58,000 followers on the website.
‘[Leonard] has the best energy on Twitch,’ wrote one fan. ‘It’s not even close.’
‘My passion away from the basketball floor!!!’ Leonard responded. ‘I’ve been incredibly blessed to grow my community and give them a place to come have a good time and meet great people!’
Some of Leonard’s gaming sponsors have already cut ties with the Virginia native. FaZe Clan, a professional esports outfit, announced their decision on Wednesday, while gaming companies Origin PC, Scuf Gaming and Astro Gaming have all confirmed the same.
‘We were incredibly disappointed to hear Meyers’ stream [Tuesday],’ read the FaZe statement. ‘FaZe does not tolerate hate speech or discriminatory language of any kind. While Meyers is not a member of FaZe, we are cutting ties with him. This community has so much growing to do. Let’s be better together.’
He has recently become a popular attraction on Twitch, which allows viewers to watch gamers
Leonard’s situation resembles one that NASCAR had last year with driver Kyle Larson (right), who was heard using the N-word during a video game live stream. During his nine months away from racing, Larson completed NASCAR’s sensitivity training, visited African-American Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee at her St. Louis community center, and volunteered with a number of charities, including multiple food banks. On Sunday, following his victory at the Penzoil 400, Larson was congratulated by the circuit’s only black driver, Bubba Wallace (left)
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who is Jewish, reached out to Leonard on social media
New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who is Jewish, reached out to Leonard on social media and offered to meet with him.
‘I get the sense that you didn’t use that word out of hate, more out of ignorance,’ Edelman wrote. ‘Most likely, you weren’t trying to hurt anyone or even profile Jews in your comment. That’s what makes it so destructive. When someone intends to be hateful, it’s usually met with great resistance.
Edelman (pictured) didn’t think Leonard had any harmful intent, but said he showed ‘casual ignorance’ which is more dangerous
‘Casual ignorance is harder to combat and has greater reach, especially when you command great influence. Hate is like a virus. Even accidentally, it can rapidly spread.’
Leonard’s situation resembles one that NASCAR had last year with driver Kyle Larson, who was heard using the N-word during a video game live stream. He was suspended and fired from Chip Ganassi Racing, but has since resurfaced with Hendrick Motorsports and won Sunday’s race in Las Vegas.
During his nine months away from racing, Larson completed NASCAR’s sensitivity training, visited African-American Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee at her St. Louis community center, and volunteered with a number of charities, including multiple food banks.
On Sunday, following his victory at the Penzoil 400 in Las Vegas, Larson was quickly congratulated by the circuit’s only black driver, Bubba Wallace.
‘It meant a lot for Bubba to come to victory lane,’ Larson said of Wallace, who is currently the only African American racing full time on NASCAR’s top circuit. ‘He’s always believed in me. That was special.’
‘Proud and happy for @KyleLarsonRacin,’ Wallace later tweeted. ‘Told him way to keep his head thru it all! We all knew it was a matter of time.’
Larson (whose live screen is picture, but not his face) was banned by NASCAR and later fired by Chip Ganassi Racing after he used the n-word while playing an online racing game in front of a live audience in April of 2020