Meyers Leonard, the former first-round center that hasn’t played in the NBA since using an antisemitic slur during a 2021 video game livestream, is hoping to make his return to the league.
Leonard told ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” there were “no excuses” for his actions and he is hoping people see he doesn’t have a “hateful cell” in him.
“I feel like I’m living in a bad dream,” Leonard explained. “…And I know that I made a huge, huge mistake.”
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Leonard was suspended in March 2021 due to the antisemitic slur uttered during his livestream, saying he didn’t know the history behind it.
“There’s less than ideal language used in a large portion of video gaming,” he mentioned.
Leonard came under immediate scrutiny as videos circulated on social media. He apparently directed the slur to somebody else he was playing with during the livestream.
At the time, he had more than 69,000 followers on Twitch, and over 550,000 between his Twitter and Instagram platforms.
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“F—ing cowards. Don’t f—ing snipe me. You f—ing k— b—-,” Leonard said during the stream.
“There are absolutely no excuses for what happened that day. And ignorance, sadly, is a very real thing.… I am not running from this, but I did not know that it happened.”
Leonard, who issued an apology on Instagram at the time, was suspended for one week and fined $50,000 by the NBA.
But the Miami Heat, the team he spent two seasons with after seven years with the Portland Trail Blazers, traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder one week after the incident. The Thunder would immediately release him, rendering him a free agent.
“I felt like I had just destroyed my life and everything that I worked for, to be honest,” Leonard said.
But Leonard was proactive to “show people what’s in your heart,” visiting with rabbis in South Florida for counseling as well as member of the Jewish community to educate himself, said an NBA spokesman.
Antisemitism became a hot topic when Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving was suspended by his team after tweeting and posting to Instagram an Amazon link to a 2018 film that contained antisemitic disinformation.
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Leonard was asked about that situation during his ESPN interview.
“I can only speak for myself and what I would say is that antisemitism is very real and more people do need to be educated and understand everything.”
Leonard last played in the NBA in January 2021 with the Heat. After the suspension, he had to undergo ankle surgery in April 2021, suffering nerve damage because of it. He’s also spent time dealing with shoulder and ankle surgeries over the past two seasons, which has been a factor in him not playing in the NBA.
Leonard recently had a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 30-year-old is hoping he can once again grace an NBA court, but also recognizes that he will be remembered for what he did.
“I’ll be a little scared of what someone might say to me, what a fan might say,” he said. “But I always come back to this: Don’t give up. If you’re a good person and you work hard, things are going to work out in life.”
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Leonard has averaged 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 16 minutes per game over his career thus far. The Blazers took him with the 11th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Illinois.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.