Meyers Leonard, the former first-round center who hasn’t played in the NBA since using an anti-Semitic slur during a live video game broadcast in 2021, hopes to return to the league.
Leonard told ESPN’s «Outside The Lines» that there were «no excuses» for his actions and that he hopes people see that he doesn’t have a «hate cell» in him.
«I feel like I’m living in a bad dream,» Leonard explained. «…And I know I made a big, big mistake.»
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Leonard was suspended in March 2021 due to the anti-Semitic slur uttered during his live broadcast, saying he did not know the story behind it.
«There’s less than ideal language used in a lot of video games,» he said.
Leonard came under immediate scrutiny when the videos circulated on social media. He apparently directed the insult at another person he was playing with during the live broadcast.
At the time, he had more than 69,000 followers on Twitch and more than 550,000 between his Twitter and Instagram platforms.
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«J—cowards. Don’t shoot me. You s—-d—,» Leonard said during the broadcast.
«There is absolutely no excuse for what happened that day. And the ignorance, unfortunately, is a very real thing… I’m not running from this, but I didn’t know it happened.»
Leonard, who issued an apology on Instagram at the time, was suspended for a 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 a week after the incident. The Thunder would immediately release him, making him a free agent.
«I felt like I had just destroyed my life and everything I’ve worked for, to be honest,» Leonard said.
But Leonard was proactive in «showing people what’s in his heart,» visiting rabbis in South Florida for counseling and as a member of the Jewish community to educate himself, an NBA spokesman said.
Anti-Semitism became a hot topic when Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving was suspended by his team after tweeting and posting on Instagram an Amazon link to a 2018 film that contained anti-Semitic misinformation.
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Leonard was asked about that situation during his interview with ESPN.
«I can only speak for myself and what I would say is that anti-Semitism is very real and more people need to be educated and understand everything.»
Leonard last played in the NBA in January 2021 with the Heat. Following the suspension, he had to undergo ankle surgery in April 2021, resulting in nerve damage. He also spent time dealing with shoulder and ankle surgeries the past two seasons, which has been a factor in his not playing in the NBA.
Leonard recently had a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 30-year-old hopes he can appear on an NBA court again, but also acknowledges that he will be remembered for what he did.
«I’ll be a little bit scared by 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 in his career thus far. The Blazers took him with the 11th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Illinois.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.