On Tuesday, Meyers Leonard became the central figure in the NBA discourse for all the wrong reasons after video of the Heat reserve center using an anti-Semitic slur during a Call of Duty stream on Twitch began circulating.
Leonard issued an apology, claiming he didn’t know what the word meant when he used it, which not many fully bought as a reason. The NBA launched an investigation into the video and the Heat announced he would be away from the team indefinitely until the league’s investigation concluded. On Tuesday, Leonard was banned from Twitch by the streaming platform and had the gaming organization he’s invested in, FaZe Clan, cut all ties with him.
On Thursday, the NBA announced its official punishment for Leonard, which was a one-week suspension and a $50,000 fine, with a statement on the matter from Adam Silver.
Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful and such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society. 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 league’s release also notes Leonard will have to participate in a “cultural diversity program,” but overall it felt to many like a fairly benign punishment for the use of such hateful language. The $50,000 fine is the maximum the league can levy without it being able to be appealed, but as many have pointed out, the wide array of circumstances that fine has been handed out it, from the use of a vicious, anti-Semitic slur to publicly requesting a trade, makes for some odd comparisons of situations.
The bigger task for Leonard will be continuing to show the work of learning and understanding why what he said was so wrong and being active in trying to express that to others, particularly given his following in the gaming community where the use of hate speech and slurs is, unfortunately, all too common.