Miami Heat NBA Player Meyers Leonard Fined $50K, Must Participate in Cultural Diversity Program After Spewing Antisemitic Slur
Miami Heat player Meyers Leonard has been fined $50,000 and suspended from all team facilities and activities for one week for making an antisemitic slur during a livestream video game session, the NBA announced on Thursday.
On Monday, the 29-year-old told an opponent while playing “Call of Duty: Warzone” on the platform Twitch, “F–ing coward. Don’t f–ing snipe me, you f–ing k–e b—h.”
“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 Anti-Defamation League confirmed to The Algemeiner on Thursday that they had a meeting with Leonard in the aftermath of his antisemitic behavior. The athlete has been in contact with multiple Jewish organizations and Jewish leaders, “from rabbis to Holocaust survivors,” to better educate himself, according to TMZ.
The Miami Heat, which is owned by Israeli-American billionaire Micky Arison, suspended Leonard “indefinitely” following the incident and said it will work with the NBA to investigate the matter. Leonard, who was acquired by the Heat in 2019, issued an apology on Monday and claimed that he “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,” he said. “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.”
Leonard will also be required to participate in a cultural diversity program, the NBA statement said.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who is Jewish, posted on Twitter an open letter to Leonard to “offer some perspective.” Edelman said he is in Miami often and invited Leonard to join him for a Shabbat dinner with friends.
“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. Casual ignorance is harder to combat and has greater reach, especially when you command great influence.”
A number of gaming sponsors have since dropped Leonard, including the professional esports organization FaZe Clan, Origin PC, Scuf Gaming and Astro Gaming, according to Unilad. Leonard has additionally been suspended from Twitch, where he had over 58,000 followers.
His Miami Heat coach and teammates have not shied away from criticizing him for his usage of the slur.
“He said something that was extremely distasteful and hurtful,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the New York Post. “And we’re left with the aftermath of that.” He added, “There are consequences to words. And those were extremely hurtful words.”
Heat captain Udonis Haslem said, “We can’t tolerate that here. Right is right and wrong is wrong. And since I’ve been here in this organization, to the day I leave this organization and beyond, we’re going to try to be on the right side of everything — especially issues like this.”