Miami Heat player Meyers Leonard will be “away from the team indefinitely” after he used an anti-Semitic slur while playing a video game, according to the NBA franchise.
Video started circulating online Tuesday of Leonard playing “Call of Duty” on Twitch, a livestreaming platform for gamers and content creators. In the video, Leonard can be heard saying: “F—— cowards. Don’t f—— snipe me, you f—— k— b—-.”
Criticism was swift. The Anti-Defamation League said in a Twitter post that it was “shocked and disappointed to see @MeyersLeonard use this ugly, offensive #antisemtic slur.”
By Tuesday night, the Heat offered its own rebuke of him, saying the organization “vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech.”
“The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise,” the team said on its official Twitter page. “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.”
Heat owner Mickey Arison and his son, Nick, the organization’s CEO, are Jewish.
Leonard later apologized to them, saying in an Instagram post that he did not know what the word meant.
“I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream yesterday,” he said. “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.”
The NBA is “in the process of gathering more information,” league spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement. “The NBA unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech.”
The Heat said it will cooperate with the investigation.
Leonard is a center in his ninth NBA season. In January, he sustained a shoulder injury and appeared in only three games for the Heat this year, The Associated Press reported.
Last summer, before the Miami Heat kicked off their season playing against the Denver Nuggets at Walt Disney World in Central Florida, Leonard stood, hand over his heart, while most players and coaches chose to kneel during the U.S. national anthem.
Leonard told The Associated Press at the time that he could not bring himself to kneel because he supported the military. He added that his brother was a U.S. Marine veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan, and said he still supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people,” Leonard said. “I will continue to use my platform, my voice and my actions to show how much I care about the African American culture and for everyone. I live my life to serve and impact others in a positive way.”