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Miami Heat center uses anti-Semitic slur during videogame livestream

Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard has been placed on indefinite leave after using an anti-Semitic slur during a video game livestream this past week. The professional basketball player was playing Call of Duty: Warzone while using the platform Twitch, which allows gamers to attend live streams of other players and chat with them as they are immersed in the game.

According to the New York Times, the incident occurred on Monday, March 8, but did not catch national attention until a video was leaked on social media come Tuesday. By then, the use of the slur became Twitter’s top trending topic in the United States.

Various athletes, fans and social groups took to Twitter to respond to Leonard’s use of the language. Anna Horford, the sister of Oklahoma City Thunder center Al Horford, tweeted, “If we run out of toilet paper again, we can just use Meyers Leonard jerseys.” After Leonard issued an apology, she continued by tweeting, “Anyone got a jersey? Cause that apology was s***.”

Leonard’s apology was issued on his social media platforms, stating that he “did not know what the word [the slur he used] meant at the time.” He went on to write, “I am now more aware of its meaning and I am committed to properly seeking out people who can educate me about this type of hate and how we can fight it.”

In response to this apology, Anna Horford explained her frustration with another tweet that said, “He made an excuse when he said he ‘didn’t know what it meant’ and he’s apologizing because he got caught. If he truly wants to change as a human being, we’ll see it in his future actions. Until then, we have [a right] to be skeptical. When people show you who they are, believe them.”

Basketball fans on Twitter have made a mockery of Leonard and his actions, ironically joking that the Utah Jazz would gladly accept Leonard as part of their organization. Back in July of 2020, Jazz guard Justin Wright-Foreman retweeted a tweet that supported the anti-Semitic comments made by TV personality Nick Cannon that led to his eventual firing. Wright-Foreman apologized in a similar fashion to Leonard, saying to media outlets, “First and foremost, I would like to apologize for my retweet. I wasn’t educated enough on the topic….” Beyond having a conversation with Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, Wright-Foreman faced no consequences for his actions, according to an article from ESPN.

Julian Edelman, wide receiver for the New England Patriots, wrote an open letter to Leonard, which he posted on his social media platforms. The letter stated that the use of hateful language in indirect, ignorant and misunderstood manners is often more hurtful and destructive, simply because it is harder to combat. “Hate is like a virus,” he wrote. “Even accidentally, it can rapidly spread.” Edelman ended his letter by inviting Leonard to Shabbat dinner, saying, “I’ll show you a fun time.”

It is unclear as to how the Miami Heat will proceed with this matter for Leonard. The team released a statement on Twitter that read: “The Miami Heat vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech.” It continued by saying, “The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise.” The organization ended with stating that Leonard will “be away from the team indefinitely,” and that the National Basketball Association (NBA) will be conducting its own investigation into the matter.

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