Shortly after shouting, “k***,” the 29-year-old dips out of the game in order to make a phone call. Leonard, who has over 69,000 followers on Twitch and 372,000 followers on Instagram, says, “Yo, my wife needs me, she just called me. I’ll, uh—I gotta roll, brother.”
Origin PC, one of Leonard’s gaming sponsors, has already cut ties with the Heat player, according to TMZ.
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On Tuesday evening, Leonard issued a lengthy apology via Instagram, claiming he didn’t know what the word meant at the time and apologizing for his “ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community. … I was just wrong.”
“This is not a proper representation of who I am,” Leonard wrote. “I promise to do better and know that my future actions will be more powerful than my use of this word.”
Miami Heat Says Leonard Will Remain ‘Away From the Team’ Amid the NBA’s Investigation
A Heat spokesperson told the South Florida Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman on Tuesday night that they “are aware of the language used by Leonard.”
Nearly an hour after that story was published, the Heat released an official statement:
The Miami HEAT vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech. The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise. To hear it from a Miami HEAT player is especially disappointing and hurtful to all those who work here, as well as the larger South Florida, Miami HEAT and NBA communities. Meyers Leonard will be away from the team indefinitely. The Miami HEAT will cooperate with the NBA while it conducts its investigation.
Users online noted that Micky Arison, who owns the Miami Heat franchise, is a Jewish billionaire businessman born in Tel-Aviv, Israel. In 2017, the Miami Herald’s Susan Miller Degnan wrote about how the Heat’s large Jewish fanbase responded when the playoffs coincided with the Passover holiday.
Leonard’s Instagram apology letter said in part, “I want to apologize to the Arisons, my teammates, coaches front office, and everyone associated with the Miami Heat organization, to my family, to our loyal fans and to others in the Jewish community who I have hurt.”
Leonard, who recently purchased an $8 million home in Miami, has made it clear that he would like to stay with the Heat after his two-year, $19.5 million contract expires at the end of the season.
Leonard Previously Caught Flack for Refusing to Kneel During the National Anthem
On January 6, Leonard stood out from the rest of his team as he remained standing during the national anthem before tipoff. While the U.S. Capitol building was under siege by Trump supporters, he was the only player to stand in the entire AmericanAirlines Arena. Their opponents, the Boston Celtics, all knelt for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
This was not the first time Leonard stood during the anthem. Back in August, he remained standing while wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt.
Leonard explained his decision to stand for the anthem before the Heat narrowly lost to the Celtics 107-105 on January 6. He wrote on Instagram:
I STAND FOR the men and women, like my brother who have served this country. I STAND AGAINST the violence and riots in DC. I STAND in solidarity with my teammates and brothers. I STAND AGAINST bigotry, racism, and hate. I STAND FOR HOPE that our country can one day stop using our differences to divide us and SEE how our HEARTS can unite us. I STAND WITH LOVE in my heart for EVERYONE.
Following Leonard’s much-scrutinized choice to stand, his wife, Elle Leonard, became the target of attacks on social media. However, Elle Leonard, the founder of Level Foods, fiercely defended her man against a woman who directly messaged her to say, “Your husband is a piece of s*** – the only one standing during the national anthem tonight. Disgusting. Disgraceful. Delusional.”
Elle Leonard shared screenshots of the interaction on her Instagram stories, and because she was blocked from responding, shared the message she’d written in response via screenshot. She didn’t go off on the woman trolling her but chalked up her angry response to having “an off day” and said, “I’m sorry that whatever is upsetting you rationalized an attack on another woman.”
Linking to Meyers Leonard’s explanation of his decision, Elle Leonard said, “Standing for one thing doesn’t mean that we stand against another. It’s kinda like how you can be a successful business woman AND a mother. Or.. .a student and an athlete. From what I ca see you’ve been standing for two things the majority of your life. AND that’s incredible.”