Meyers Leonard, a former first-round choice of the NBA, opened up about the event and his following path toward forgiveness in an interview with Jewish ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap, nearly two years after he was discovered uttering an antisemitic slur on a video gaming platform.
Leonard informed Schaap, an 11-time Emmy winner who has created other Jewish-themed material for ESPN, “I know that I made a significant, huge error. And how in the world could this have ever happened? I could hurt no fly.
In March 2021, Leonard, who was then a player for the Miami Heat, said the term “kike” while livestreaming a “Call of Duty” video game on the Twitch platform. The consequences were swift: Leonard received a fine from the NBA and a suspension from the Heat.
The next day, Leonard regretted using an anti-Semitic slur in a live stream, adding, “I am profoundly sorry for uttering an anti-Semitic term yesterday. Even though I didn’t understand the phrase’s meaning at the time, I was mistaken, and I can’t explain my ignorance of its ugly history or how it affects the Jewish community.
The 7-footer sustained injuries during the event and hasn’t participated in NBA games since. But now that he is fit and trying to make a comeback, he recently participated in a LA Lakers workout.
For the ESPN Daily podcast, Schaap spoke with Leonard and told Pablo Torre about the encounter.
Leonard told Schaap about the toll the error placed on him, including the need for round-the-clock protection due to threats against him and his family. Leonard claimed he had not yet forgiven himself and even considered taking his own life.
To be honest, Leonard remarked, I felt like I had wrecked all I had worked for and my life.
Torre used Kyrie Irving’s current antisemitism crisis to contextualize the Leonard incident. Irving “became the new face of the foremost antisemitism scandal, in not just NBA history, but modern sports history,” Torre said.
Schaap referred to the current uptick in antisemitism in the US, which included the tragic 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
“Over the past few years, there has been a period when the Jewish community has felt more under attack than it has in a long time.
Schaap claimed that he started the interview by inquiring about Leonard’s understanding of his usage of the slur.
Not at all, Leonard replied. “Once more, there are no justifications for what occurred that day, and regrettably, ignorance is a real issue. And I was exactly that.
According to Leonard, he most likely picked up the term via his involvement in online gaming, frequently a breeding ground for antisemitism and other types of hatred.
Following a brief history and explanation of the slur by Schaap and Torre, Schaap stated that he was inclined to believe Leonard when he claimed to be unaware of its significance.