Almost two years after Meyers Leonard was caught using antisemitic slur in a videogame platform, the NBA player finally opens up about the incident and his journey towards redemption.
There are “no excuses” he recently said in an interview with Jeremy Schaap of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”. “I feel like I’m living in a bad dream,” Leonard said on the program which aired this past Tuesday.”There’s not a hateful cell in my body. And I know that I made a huge, huge mistake.”
The 30-year-old used the controversial term repeatedly while playing Call of Duty live back in March 2021, and almost immediately the internet went wild. The Miami Heat, his team at the time, consequently suspended and fined the player. However, soon after he was rejected and set as a free agent.
Here’s a clip of the player’s incident as playing live on his Twitch channel:
The next day, Meyers offered an apology stating: “I deeply regret using an an antisemitic insult during yersterday’s live transmission. I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, my ignorance about their history and how offensive it is towards the Jewish community is not an excuse and I simply was wrong.”
Leonard, who said he still hasn’t forgiven himself entirely, told Schaap about the consequences of his mistake, even considering suicide at some point. “I felt like I had just destroyed my life and everything that I worked for, to be honest,” he recalled.
He was also on the spotlight for controversy before, as he stood while his teammates knelt to bring attention to the issue of police brutality as the national anthem was played in Orlando during the 2019-20 season that was affected by the pandemic.
Schaap finally asked if the player had absorbed any of Jewish culture and tradition in these past turbulent years, and he said that love was the answer. “When you walk outside your door, just love the people”, he said. “Be nice. Forgive. I’ve met people who have been through really tough moments, who still love me. And would want me to love myself.”
You can watch the whole interview of ESPN’s special in the following Twitter post:
Our interview with @MeyersLeonard, the former Portland and Miami center who is hoping to return to the NBA. Nearly two years ago, he used an antisemitic slur while playing Call of Duty on Twitch. A warning–this story includes offensive language. pic.twitter.com/rWmt48Y8ID
— Jeremy Schaap (@JeremySchaap) February 1, 2023
With controversy behind him, Leonard is back to training in Los Angeles
Leonard, who has played in 447 NBA games, averaging 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds, was eventually picked up by the Lakers. The center, who was the 11th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, was finally reported to return to training with his team just a couple of weeks ago. With him was free agent DeMarcus Cousins, who due to injury hasn’t played a game since 2019.
“They both looked great,” head coach Darvim Ham said after practice Saturday, January 10th. “Whether or not we’re able to do something with them is a different story. But we’re constantly trying to kick the tires on different scenarios.”
After Leonard played with the Portland Trail Blazers during his first seven years as a professional, he later got traded to Miami Heat, then tried his return with the Oklahoma City Thunder but never got to play. Now he is a free agent looking for a squad to represent.