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Former Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard says there are 'no excuses' for his use of an anti-Semitic slur in 2021, but tells ESPN that he still hopes to return to the NBA despite the lingering controversy.
'There's not a hateful cell in my body,' Leonard told ESPN's 'Outside the Lines' in an interview that aired Tuesday. 'And I know that I made a huge, huge mistake.'
Leonard has been away from the NBA since March of 2021 after a video surfaced of him using an anti-Semitic slur while livestreaming a video game on the website, Twitch.
'F***ing cowards,' Leonard, 30, is heard saying during the 'Call of Duty' live stream. 'Don't f***ing snipe me, you f***ing k*** b****.'
Ex-Heat center Meyers Leonard says there are 'no excuses' for his use of an anti-Semitic slur in 2021, but tells ESPN that he still hopes to return to the NBA despite the lingering controversy
In Tuesday's interview, Leonard claimed he was unaware of the meaning behind the word, telling anchor Jeremy Schaap that 'there's less than ideal language used in a large portion of video gaming.'
He went on to say that he was unaware of what he'd actually said until it was too late: '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's absence from the NBA may not be strictly due to his use of the anti-Jewish slur. He has only recently been cleared to play following a series of ankle and shoulder surgeries, and reportedly worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month.
He apologized for the incident in 2021 after being roundly criticized by the Jewish groups and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who fined Leonard $50,000 and barred him from being around the Heat for one week. The team had previously said Leonard would be away indefinitely.
The 30-year-old Leonard was playing 'Call of Duty' on the website, Twitch, when he was caught saying 'k***' - a derogatory term for a Jewish person
NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN that Leonard is in good standing with the league after meeting with Jewish leaders.
'Since his use of a derogatory and unacceptable term in 2021, Meyers Leonard has been held accountable and has dedicated considerable time and effort to understand the impact of his comment,' Bass said. 'He has met with numerous leaders in the Jewish community and participated in community programs to educate himself and use his platform to share his learnings with others.'
If he does get a chance to return to the NBA, Leonard knows he'll continued to be tainted by what he said.
The Heat are owned by Israeli-American businessman Micky Arison (pictured)
'I'll be a little scared of what someone might say to me, what a fan might say,' he told Schaap. '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. And I wholeheartedly believe that.'
Following the incident, Leonard, who was injured at the time, was traded in a salary dump to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He