The Miami Heat said Tuesday night that Meyers Leonard will be away from the team indefinitely, sharply criticizing his use of an antisemitic slur during a Twitch stream.
Leonard apologized for using the term, insisting he did not know what it meant when he used it Monday. The Heat learned of the matter Tuesday, and Leonard’s future with the team is now in serious doubt.
“The Miami Heat vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech,” the team statement said. “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.”
The team also said it will cooperate with the NBA’s investigation.
Clips where Leonard was heard calling another player a “fucking kike bitch” while playing Call of Duty quickly began circulating on social media earlier Tuesday.
“We just became aware of the video and are in the process of gathering more information,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement. “The NBA unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech.”
Leonard released a statement late Tuesday claiming he “didn’t know what the word meant” but acknowledging his ignorance was “absolutely not an excuse”.
“I am deeply sorry for using an antisemitic slur during a livestream yesterday,” the statement read. “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.”
An avid gamer, Leonard had about 58,000 followers on Twitch as of Tuesday afternoon. The nine-year NBA veteran announced his investment in the esports organization FaZe Clan in 2019.
Later Tuesday, FaZe Clan said it was “cutting ties” with Leonard.
“We were incredibly disappointed to hear Meyers’ stream today,” the statement read. “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.”
Gaming companies Astro Gaming, Origin PC and Scuf Gaming also put out statements announcing they were terminating their relationships with the player.
Leonard made headlines in August when he became one of the first players to stand for the national anthem in the NBA’s Walt Disney World bubble amid league-wide kneeling as a form of silent protest against racial inequality in the United States.
The University of Illinois product, whose brother served two tours in Afghanistan with the US Marines, said he could not bring himself to kneel for the national anthem and was the lone Miami player to stand with the support of his teammates.
“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 the game. “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, 29, had surgery on his left shoulder last month and is expected to miss the rest of the season.