Meyers Leonard, a reserve center for the Miami Heat, has been fined $50,000 and suspended for one week after a viral clip showed him using an anti-Semitic slur while playing a video game on a public livestream.
“Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful and such an offensive term has no place in the N.B.A. or in our society,” Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, said in a statement announcing the punishments. “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.”
The statement continued, “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.”
Leonard, a 29-year-old gaming aficionado, was playing “Call of Duty: Warzone,” a popular multiplayer video game, on Twitch, a livestreaming platform, when he said the slur. He also said a sexist vulgarity in his comment, after another player tried to kill his character in the game. The video was recorded Monday, but the clip did not spread on social media until Tuesday.
The condemnation of Leonard was swift, with the Heat suspending him indefinitely on Tuesday and the Anti-Defamation League saying in a statement on Twitter that it was “shocked and disappointed” to see Leonard use the “ugly, offensive” slur.
Leonard apologized Tuesday in a statement posted to Instagram.
He said he was “deeply sorry” for using the slur, and that he did not know what the word meant at the time.
“I acknowledge and own my mistake and there’s no running from something like this that is so hurtful to someone else,” Leonard said. “This is not a proper representation of who I am.”
On Wednesday, further criticism came from within the Heat organization.
Erik Spoelstra, the Heat’s coach, told reporters that Leonard’s words were “distasteful and hurtful.”
“We know Meyers. Meyers has been a really good teammate,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a good human being. He said something that was extremely distasteful and hurtful. And we’re left with the aftermath. We don’t condone that obviously.”
Udonis Haslem, who has played for the Heat for almost two decades, said of Leonard: “We can’t tolerate that here. Right is right and wrong is wrong. And since I’ve been here in this organization, to the day I leave this organization and beyond, we’re going to try to be on the right side of everything — especially issues like this.”
Haslem added that he had “never heard him use any language that made me uncomfortable at all” previously.
Leonard, who had played only three games this season, his ninth in the league, already was expected to miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder surgery last month. He is making about $9.4 million this year, with a team option for next season. He has come off the bench for much of his career but started the majority of the Heat’s games last year.
After the clip of him saying the slur went viral, Twitch suspended his channel and several gaming companies he had been affiliated with denounced him. FaZe Clan, an e-sports team Leonard invested in two years ago, said it was cutting ties with him, although it was unclear what that meant since Leonard was an investor. Other companies, like Origin PC and Scuf Gaming, which are both owned by the hardware company Corsair, and Astro Gaming, whose gaming headsets Leonard was giving away as a promotion, also said they were ending their relationships with him.