Meyers Leonard has been fined $50,000 and will be suspended from all Miami Heat facilities and team activities for a week as punishment for using an anti-Semitic slur during a Twitch live-stream. He will also participate in a cultural diversity program according to the NBA. The question is, what happens next?
Will Leonard use this as a turning point in his life? He can work to atone for his mistake and use his fame for good to help anyone that were hurt by what he said. He can have a redemption story like Tim Hardaway .
The big difference here is that Hardaway had already retired. He never had to enter a locker room or sign a contract after his low point. Leonard's contract has a $10.1 million team option coming up this summer. Will the Miami Heat bring him back? Would they have brought him back even if this didn't happen?
Leonard is constantly injured. He had ankle issues last year and had season-ending shoulder surgery three games into this season. In his career he's appeared in 69, 40, 55, 61, 74, 33, 61, 51 and 3 games. He's never played 22 minutes a game.
He was a lottery pick in 2012, but has never been much more than the definition of a big body. He's been a pretty good three-point shooter in his career, but he's never on the floor enough for it to really matter.
How many other serviceable big men who can hit an occassion triple are out there at this point? It's not like he was an integral part of the Heat's Finals run last year. He appeared in just three total games during the 2020 postseason.
The best year of Leonard's career came during the '15-'16 season when he averaged 8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game for the Portland Trail Blazers. Last season in Miami he averaged 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a game for the Heat. That seems fairly easy to replace without the headaches.
Even before he uttered an anti-Semitic slur during a game of Call of Duty for the entire internet to hear, he refused to kneel for the National Anthem. He said it was because of support for the military. If he doesn't get another contract, that will become the headline in the cancel culture wars. The truth is anyone who believes Colin Kaepernick is no longer in the NFL because he isn't good enough should have no problem with Meyers Leonard never playing another game in the NBA.
If Leonard wants to remain in the NBA he probably needs to be a redemption story. Simply saying he learned his lesson won't do it. He hasn't even clarified his original apology where he said he "didn't know what the word meant," which still makes no sense. Right now, there's no reason for any team to give him another shot.