The NBA has fined Meyers Leonard $50,000 and suspended him from all Miami Heat facilities and activities for one week, in response to his use of an antisemitic slur.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the sanctions Thursday, two days after the video began circulating on social media.
“Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful and such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society,” Silver said.
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. He will not play again this season because of a shoulder injury.
Silver said Leonard spoke Wednesday “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,” Silver said.
The Heat went back to work Wednesday to end their All-Star break. The team opens its second-half schedule on Thursday against Orlando. Spoelstra has spoken with Leonard, as have other team officials.
“Meyers has been a really good teammate,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a good human being.”
The video drew reactions from league officials, members of other teams, celebrities and even athletes from other sports.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who is Jewish, posted a letter to Leonard on social media and said he did so to offer perspective. Edelman also said he is in Miami often, and invited Leonard to meet 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.”
Spoelstra has offered high praise for Leonard’s work ethic and effort many times during the center’s year and a half with the team. Those days seem long ago now.
“It doesn’t matter the intent,” Spoelstra said. “It’s just not right.”
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 in a statement 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 announced they were terminating their relationships with the player.