Meyers Leonard is away from the Miami Heat indefinitely after yelling an anti-Semitic slur during a video game stream, and that left his coach and teammates handling the matter Wednesday.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Heat veterans Udonis Haslem and Andre Iguodala all denounced Leonard's slur, saying such language is not welcome in their organization. Leonard was already out for the season with a shoulder injury, and it's unclear when he will return to the locker room.
Leonard has released a statement apologizing for the slur while claiming to have not known its meaning at the time.
Spoelstra gave Leonard a character endorsement, but emphasized the pain created by the word:
A lot of emotions. Yes, very disappointed. Those words are extremely hurtful. We don't condone that. There's so much more that needs to be done in terms of education and what's right vs. what's wrong. We know Meyers, Meyers has been a really good teammate, he’s a good human being. He said something that was extremely distasteful and hurtful, and we’re left with the aftermath of that.
We don't condone that, obviously. It was a disappointing day. We've had some conservations out here as a team. I've spoken to Meyers, he feels really bad about it. It doesn’t matter the intent, it’s just not right.”
Per the Associated Press, Spoelstra added that he told Leonard "there are consequences to words."
In addition to his suspension from the Heat, Leonard has been banned from Twitch, the platform on which he uttered the slur, and has been dropped by two of his gaming sponsors. The NBA has also been reviewing the incident.
It's unfortunate, obviously with social media nowadays. Things spread like wildfire. It's unfortunate. We can't tolerate that here. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Since I’ve been here in this organization and until 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.”
From the bottom of my heart and this organization, we apologize. That won't be tolerated here. We're going to be on the right side of these things moving forward. I felt it. I have a lot of Jewish friends. They call me Udonis Haslem-berg sometimes, so I felt it. I reached out to a couple of them after that happened, just to see how they were feeling and to make sure they were OK and just let them know that we don't condone that and that won't be tolerated here and they can continue to just be confident that those type of things don't happen around here in this locker room.
When asked if Leonard had ever used such language around him, Haslem said no.
Iguodala also called on Leonard to be held accountable and learn from the experience:
I think people have got to be held accountable for their actions. Same thing in this scenario. Got to be held accountable, got to really understand your own actions. You just got to man up and realize that it's not right and it's up him to right this wrong and it's up to you all, not even up to us to right this wrong, but to hold him accountable.
I don't think it's up to us to figure that out. It's up to him to try to right this wrong and figure himself out. He's put a lot of work in to become a professional basketball player, so he has it in him to put that work in on himself to educate himself.
It appears no other NBA players have denounced Leonard's slur yet, though Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots, who is Jewish, released an open letter Wednesday morning calling it "destructive" and inviting Leonard to a Shabbat dinner.
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