Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard will be away from the team indefinitely, the organization said in a statement Tuesday night, while the NBA conducts an investigation into his use of an anti-Semitic slur during a recent video game livestream.
In a video that surfaced earlier Tuesday on social media, Leonard can be heard saying: “F—ing cowards; don’t f—ing snipe me, you f—ing k— b—-.”
“The Miami Heat vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech,” the team statement said. “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.”
Leonard apologized in an Instagram post Tuesday evening.
“I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream yesterday,” he wrote. “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.”
It is possible that Leonard may face sanctions from the NBA, which said it was “in the process of gathering more information.”
“The NBA unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech,” league spokesperson Mike Bass said.
The Heat, who were in the final day of their All-Star break and are not formally resuming practice until Wednesday, said in their statement that they will cooperate with the league’s investigation.
Gaming companies ASTRO Gaming, Origin PC and Scuf Gaming said in statements posted to Twitter on Tuesday that they have ended their relationships with Leonard.
An avid gamer, Leonard has repeatedly discussed over the years how much he enjoys having a back-and-forth with fans on his Twitch feed.
Leonard, a 7-foot center in his ninth NBA season, sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in January and appeared in only three games for the Heat this year. He could become a free agent this summer; the Heat hold a team option on him for next season worth about $10 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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