Miami Heat’s Power Forward Meyers Leonard used a derogatory antisemitic slur while live-streaming a video game on the popular platform known as Twitch in early March.
The NBA fined Leonard $50,000, the maximum allowed by league policy, and the Miami Heat indefinitely suspended him.
In his apology, Leonard stated he “did not know what the word meant at the time” and vowed to seek ways to educate himself on the history of anti-Jewish hate and ways to fight it.
It is implausible that Leonard did not know the derogatory nature of the slur he was using, as he used it in response to a frustrating moment in his video game.
Leonard abused a platform where he had attention from fans to promote a terrible word with a dark history of hate.
There is absolutely no room for antisemitism or any form of derogatory ethnic slurs on or off the court.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who is Jewish, received Leonard’s vow to seek information on anti-Semitism well and wrote a profound letter about the effects of causal ignorance.
“Casual ignorance is harder to combat and has greater reach, especially when you command great influence,” Edelman wrote. “Hate is like a virus, even accidentally it can spread.”
Edelman is right about how the casual slip-up of one slur can have grave negative consequences when spoken by someone who is idolized by thousands.
Any form of hate speech can create a ripple effect that changes the way many ethnic and religious minorities feel about their safety in this country.
The NBA and Miami Heat reacted well by investigating this issue and quickly suspending Leonard in accordance with their zero-tolerance policy in regards to hate speech.
Leonard now needs to prove he has changed his perspective on hate speech and the history of antisemitism and grow from his mistakes before reentering the league.
While some might argue in favor of holding public figures and professional athletes to a higher standard, at a minimum they should observe common standards of decency and respect and should be aware of the consequences of what they say
Many high school students jokingly and ignorantly use racial slurs.
They should learn from Leonard’s mistake.
Many people who harbor casual attitudes surrounding derogatory rhetoric do not understand that their complacency only perpetuates senseless hatred.