NBA player Meyers Leonard speaks about the need for anti-Semitism education

During ADL virtual seminar, Leonard talks about the March controversy that led him to begin speaking out against anti-Semitism and hate.

Dan Verbin ,

Basketball (illustration)
Basketball (illustration)
Flash 90

NBA Player Meyers Leonard, who sparked an uproar in March after using an anti-Semitic slur while playing a live streamed video game, recently spoke at a webinar about his “very big mistake.”

The free agent was part of a virtual seminar last Thursday hosted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “The Power of Education to Fight Antisemitism and Hate” event’s goal was to discuss how education “can be the key that unlocks our minds and inspires our souls to challenge bias in ourselves, others and society, ultimately creating a more just and equitable world.”

“I deserved to be punished… But all I can hope for and pray for is for people to be willing to listen, spend time with me and clearly show them the man that I am,” said Leonard, a former Miami Heat forward.

He added: “I’m constantly asking for forgiveness to show people my heart.”

He described uttering the slur as “a very big mistake and one that I wish I could take back.”

After being overheard uttering the slur while playing “Call of Duty: Warzone” streamed on the social media site Twitch, Leonard was fined $50,000 by the NBA and suspended for one week. He also had to attend a sensitivity program. Ultimately, he lost several sponsorships.

“The most difficult part for me is that I caused other people pain. Because I have nothing but love in my heart … I’m sorry for the pain that I have caused. I own my mistake and I will continue to be better because of it.”

He said that while he “made a huge mistake, this is not the human being that I am… I now have the ability to speak on my mistake but more importantly to stop someone if they use any version of hate speech.”

Explaining that the best way to educate against hate is “peer-to-peer,” Leonard said that from his experience, he can “go share with my friends and hopefully they share with someone else who I don’t know… People will just become more comfortable and willing to make this world a better place… My mission is to continue to educate myself, continue to educate others and continue to be a better human being.”

Other speakers at the event included WNBA two-time league champion Alysha Clark, who was a member of the Israel’s women’s national basketball team.