Free agent center Meyers Leonard is reportedly signing a 10-day deal with the Milwaukee Bucks – two years since his last appearance in the NBA.
The Bucks have kept an eye on Leonard for over a year and led a workout with the 30-year-old in January, according to ESPN. Milwaukee had an opening spot on its roster and wanted to sign a big man who could shoot and who has experience of playing in the playoffs.
Leonard was suspended one week and fined $50,000 after making an anti-Semitic slur on a video game livestream while being out injured at the start of 2021.
However, what was carving out to be a promising future for the 11th overall pick of the 2012 draft quickly turned into a nightmare.
Meyers Leonard is set for NBA return after last playing in the league for Miami in January 2021
He is reportedly signing with the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference for 10 days
From March 2021 until now, no team out of the league’s 30 wanted to take a chance on Leonard after video surfaced of him using an anti-Semitic slur while livestreaming a video game on the website, Twitch.
‘F***ing cowards,’ Leonard is heard saying during the recording of his Twitch stream. ‘Don’t f***ing snipe me, you f***ing k*** b****.’
Almost two years later, Leonard opened up in an interview with ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’, admitting that he was unaware of the meaning behind the offensive word. He also told anchor Jeremy Schaap that ‘there’s less than ideal language used in a large portion of video gaming.’
Leonard went on to say 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.’
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.
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.
Leonard was playing ‘Call of Duty’ on Twitch when he was said ‘k***’ – an anti-Semitic insult
‘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.’
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.
Before news of the Bucks contract, Leonard confessed he was afraid that he would still be chastised for what he said almost two years ago.
‘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 rehabilitating after surgery on nerve damage on his right leg, was traded in a salary dump to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was never activated by the Thunder and became a free agent after the season.
Silver did say in 2021 that he believes Leonard ‘is genuinely remorseful’ for using the slur.
Leonard stands with kneeling teammates during the national anthem before an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat on September 8
‘Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful and such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society,’ Silver said at the time.
Leonard was required by the league to participate in a cultural diversity program. He also met with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish organization that works to stop extremism and delivers anti-bias education.
The 7-foot former University of Illinois star also gained nationwide notoriety during the 2020 NBA restart in Orlando when he decided to stand for the national anthem as his Miami teammates knelt to protest racism.
He explained his decision in August of 2020, saying that he could be a patriot while supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult,’ Leonard told The Associated Press prior to a game inside the league bubble in Orlando.
‘I am with the Black Lives Matter movement and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country.’