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Meyers Leonard signs 10-day NBA contract, two years after he used an antisemitic slur

Leonard told ESPN he’s spent two years connecting with the Jewish community

An NBA player who hasn’t seen game action since saying an antisemitic slur two years ago could be making a comeback.

According to an ESPN report, Meyers Leonard is set to sign a 10-day contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Leonard last played for the Miami Heat during the 2020-21 season. After suffering a leg injury, Leonard began streaming himself playing video games on Twitch. In March of that year, while playing a live online round of the Call of Duty videogame, Leonard called another player a “kike,” leading to condemnation from the Jewish community and resulting in a suspension from the Heat and a fine from the NBA.

Leonard apologized, saying he didn’t know what the word meant but that his ignorance “is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong.”

Leonard was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who promptly waived his contract. Since then, he’s been a free agent. 

But Leonard said he’s spent much of that time attempting to make amends for the slur. Last month, he sat for an extended interview with ESPN, where he expressed intense remorse for what he said. He told the sports news outlet that he and his wife had received death threats in the immediate aftermath and that he had even contemplated suicide. 

Leonard maintained he hadn’t known what the word meant and said he believed he had heard it while gaming. Online video games are often a hotbed of antisemitic, racist, sexist and other xenophobic speech.

The 7-foot center developed a relationship with a Broward County Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi named Pinny Andrusier, who he said had helped him connect with Holocaust survivors and other members of Florida’s Jewish community. He told ESPN that the meetings he had with Jewish people had taught him to love his neighbors.

“Be kind. Forgive,” he said. “Through a big mistake of mine, I met a loving community. I met people who had been through extremely difficult times, yet they loved me. And they wanted me to love myself.”

The Milwaukee Bucks are currently second in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 41-17.

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