Head Copy Editor
Meyers Leonard, backup/reserve center for the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat, has come under intense fire for using an anti-Semitic slur while publicly streaming himself playing video games. Leonard was playing Call of Duty on the streaming service Twitch when he went into an expletive-ridden rant, in which he called someone a “k—e b—ch.” This resulted in both condemnation and defense from the sports world, as well as punishment from both his team and the league.
After using the said slur on Twitch, he was suspended from the platform indefinitely. In addition, he was fined $50,000 by the NBA and was suspended from team activities for a week, while the Heat suspended him from the team indefinitely. He would have been required to forfeit earnings during his suspension, but this was nullified since he had a season-ending injury earlier this year and has not played basketball since.
He also was required to attend diversity training, and voluntarily met with the Anti-Defamation League, an organization aimed at fighting antisemitism. The Heat, whose owner and CEO are both Jewish, released a statement saying that they “will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise.” In an Instagram apology, Leonard claimed he did not understand what the word meant when he used it.
In the aftermath, he received criticism and leniency from around the NBA. Hall of Famers and commentators Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal split on their interpretation of Leonard’s antisemitism. Shaq tore into Leonard, saying “in an organization like the Miami Heat, which I played for, this is something they don’t really tolerate… they’re going to have to believe that he was really sorry.” Barkley, on the other hand, defended him wholeheartedly, claiming that he was a victim of cancel culture and that this situation was overdramatized.
The biggest response, arguably, did not even come from within the NBA, however, as the former National Football League’s Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, who is also Jewish, penned an open letter to Leonard about antisemitism that quickly went viral. In this letter, he discussed Leonard’s claimed ignorance of the word, making it even more destructive in spreading hate without intention, and compared the spread of religious prejudice to an indiscriminate virus.
The NBA has not released information on any additional punishment or sanctions against him, nor has the Heat alluded to a decision to keep, trade, or release the center. It is unknown whether there will be any more repercussions at all, or if Leonard will make any other public statements, but, regardless, this is a disgusting thing to have occurred in the first place. His condemnation is rightfully deserved, and probably deserved more, for spreading anti-Jewish rhetoric during a time where prejudice and conspiracy theories about minorities are more popular than ever, and it can only be hoped that his actions have not encouraged any more hate and discrimination in this country.
Featured Image: Courtesy of UPI.com