NBA team Miami Heat say that Meyers Leonard will “be away from the team indefinitely” after the 29-year-old used a racial slur on a Twitch stream while playing the popular ‘Call of Duty’ video game franchise.
The NBA are investigating footage from Leonard’s Twitch stream on Monday in which he referred to another player as a “k*ke” – a derogatory slur often used to disparage members of the Jewish community.
“F*cking cowards, don’t f*cking snipe at me you… k*ke bitch,” said Leonard during the game.
Footage of the incident, which has gone viral since it was broadcast, shows an exasperated Leonard using the word after his video game character was killed by another player during an online session.
Warning: videos contain offensive language
Shortly after he used the term, Leonard received a phone call, purportedly from his wife, in which he stayed silent for a prolonged period before telling the other players on the session that he had to leave.
He subsequently apologized for using the slur in a lengthy statement on Instagram.
“I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream yesterday,” Leonard wrote online.
“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.”
Leonard, a first-round draft pick in 2012, was subsequently dropped by online gaming partner FaZe, who issued a strongly-worded statement condemning Leonard’s use of the offensive language.
“We were incredibly disappointed to hear Meyers’ stream today,” the eSports group wrote. “FaZe does not tolerate hate speech or discriminatory language of any kind. While Meyers is not a member of FaZe, we are cutting ties with him.
“The community has so much growing to do. Let’s be better together.”
The Heat also released a statement to say that they will participate in an NBA investigation into the incident and that Leonard will be away from the team “indefinitely” as a result.
“The Miami Heat vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech,” the team announced.
“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 co-operate with the NBA while it conducts its investigation.”
The owner of the Heat, Mickey Arison, and his son who acts as CEO, Nick, are both Jewish.
The NBA has acted in the past to punish players who become involved in such incidents. In 2011, the league issued a penalty of $100,000 to Kobe Bryant after he was found to have directed a homophobic slur towards a referee.
Leonard is currently recovering from shoulder surgery undertaken in February and is expected to miss the rest of the NBA season after playing just three games of the current campaign despite signing a two-year, $19.5 million deal before the league year began.