Meyers Leonard video controversy, explained: Heat center apologizes after using anti-Semitic slur on Twitch stream

By | March 10, 2021

Heat center Meyers Leonard will be away from the team indefinitely after using an anti-Semitic slur during a recent video game live stream.

Leonard uttered the slur on his Twitch live stream while playing “Call of Duty: Warzone” on Monday. A clip from that stream hit social media on Tuesday, prompting major backlash online and forcing Leonard, the Heat and NBA to address his comments. 

Here’s how the situation involving Leonard started and the latest news on his status with the Heat.

What happened on Meyers Leonard’s Twitch stream?

On his Monday night Twitch stream, Leonard was heard saying the K-word, a derogatory term used against Jewish people. (For those unfamiliar with the word, The Baltimore Jewish Times has a breakdown of various anti-Semitic slurs and their origins.)

“F—ing cowards,” Leonard said. “Don’t f—ing snipe me, you f—ing k— b—.”

(Warning: Offensive language in the video below.)

Leonard, an avid gamer, was hosting another “Call of Duty: Warzone” stream Tuesday when the clip surfaced on social media. Defector’s Patrick Redford noted that the chat room on Leonard’s stream began to fill up with messages about the slur. Moderators attempted to remove some of those messages and ban viewers, eventually switching to “emote-only mode.” (Emotes are essentially Twitch’s version of emoticons or emojis.)

In the middle of that Tuesday stream, Leonard said his wife, Elle, had called him and needed him. He then abruptly stopped playing.

After the clip was widely shared, Leonard appeared to delete tweets promoting his Twitch account and his archived videos.

Multiple gaming companies have since ended their partnerships with Leonard, and Twitch has banned Leonard from streaming on the platform.

“We do not allow the use of hateful slurs on Twitch,” a company spokesperson said, per Jacob Wolf of Dot Esports. “The safety of our community is our top priority, and per our guidelines we reserve the right to suspend any account for conduct that we determine to be inappropriate, harmful or puts our community at risk.”

How did Meyers Leonard respond?

Leonard issued an apology on Instagram hours after his comments came to light. That statement in full:

I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during a live stream yesterday. While I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong. I am now more aware of its meaning and I am committed to properly seeking out people who can help educate me about this type of hate and how we can fight it.

I acknowledge and own my mistake and there’s no running from something like this that is so hurtful to someone else. This is not a proper representation of who I am and 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. I promise to do better and know that my future actions will be more powerful than my use of this word.

How did the Heat and NBA respond?

The Heat released a statement Tuesday night saying that the team “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,” the statement read. “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.”

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said Tuesday that the league was in the process of gathering more information and “unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech.”

What is Meyers Leonard’s status with the Heat?

Leonard will be away from the Heat indefinitely, and Miami plans to fully cooperate with the NBA while it conducts an investigation. As of Wednesday morning, it was unclear whether the league would fine and/or suspend Leonard for his comments.

The 29-year-old big man had only appeared in three games this season before suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery. Leonard has one more year left on his current contract, but he could hit free agency this summer because his deal includes a team option for next season worth $10.1 million.