Last week, footage was shown from a gaming livestream of NBA forward Meyers Leonard using an anti-semitic slur towards the opponent he was facing. Upon news of these findings, the NBA indefinitely suspended him. They also levied a fine against him in the amount of $50,000 and mandated diversity training. Meyers Leonard responded with this statement below.

Here's where things get even more interesting. During this past summer’s events of brutality, mourning, and activism, many players in the NBA decided to show solidarity before games by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. This gesture was also in tribute to the efforts Colin Kaepernick notably made while in the NFL to bring attention to the present issue of police brutality towards Black people in this country. This act of kneeling is still a polarizing act. As a matter of fact, I believe that many who are against the kneeling really use their defiance as a euphemism for their inherent racism. Meyers Leonard refused to kneel with his team.

In fact, Meyers Leonard was one of those people who cited that he was vehemently against kneeling during the NBA bubble this past summer. He stated that he viewed the playing of the national anthem as a tribute to the armed forces in this country, using his brother as an example. During said interviews and segments Leonard was moved to tears while stating this. Naturally, the media accepted his views and people eased up on him.

“How noble” one might think, right?

Well ehh ehh, wrong again Shirley. Leonard's deep love for honoring his country clearly doesn't translate to respecting its citizens. And the half ass apology above shouldn’t cut it. There is no way that at Meyers Leonard’s big age of 29 that he didn’t know the anti-semitic slur that he uttered was a hurtful, derogatory term. I mean, he was trash talking at the end of the day, no matter what, he was looking to insult his opponent, and he chose to use that word to do so. 

You can’t grow in this life by way of bullshitting yourself. It’s impossible, and this is a great opportunity to speak on the importance of accountability. Leonard isn’t the first athlete to make such a gross misstep like this. We’ve had the likes of Riley Cooper, Rajon Rondo, and even the late great Kobe Bryant use derogatory language and be reprimanded heavily for it. In Cooper’s case we damn near never heard from him again. 

We have had precedent, which is what makes cases like these so exhausting. You’d think people would be more mindful, but folks have a propensity for letting us all down. As I see it, if I, as a Black man expect to be respected in this world, then I too should be passionate for other groups of people to be respected in kind. For far too long I believe that the rhetoric of tolerance has been preached. We’re asked to simply “deal” with the fact that different types of people exist. I don’t think people give that enough thought, and tolerance in their mind doesn’t necessarily equate to respect. We really should be accepting of one another and not only tolerant. And I believe that an inherent respect accompanies that acceptance.

Ignorance as Leonard cited can no longer be an excuse for behavior like this. If you ask me, these types of things happen far too often. Additionally, scenarios like this point out how so many other white people are hypocritical when it comes to aligning their stated values with their actions. 

These are the lessons people need to learn. After all, “who don’t hear must feel,” right? And in this life, it seems the only way people feel anything is when you hit them in their pockets. Furthermore, it’ll be pretty hard for him to get another job in the league next season as he is an already marginally skilled player. It’s my hope that this story deters folks from verbally violating others due to race, gender or any other identity. But I know that is a long shot. At the very least, I hope that citing ignorance is in the past and that people simply take ownership of their mistake and move on.

It's time for real change, and that doesn't come from taking one diversity training class.

And frankly, I simply can’t imagine one being so moved to learn everything there is to know about a group of people after knowingly insulting them. It comes off as disingenuous. And how much studying do you really have to do to treat people with respect?