Bucks announce they have signed Meyers Leonard
Updated: 12:46 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2023
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks have signed Meyers Leonard to a 10-day contract, marking the 7-footer's return to the NBA after his use of an antisemitic slur while playing a video game two years ago.
The Bucks announced the signing Wednesday. ESPN first reported the Bucks were planning the move.
Leonard hasn't appeared in an NBA game since January 2021, when he injured his shoulder while playing for the Miami Heat. Two months later, he used a slur while playing a video game online that others watched on a livestream.
The Heat told him to stay away indefinitely and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined him $50,000. Miami eventually traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who released him shortly afterward.
Leonard said at the time in a statement posted on social media that he didn't know the meaning of the word he'd said but added that "my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong."
"I am now more aware of its meaning and I am committed to properly seeking out people who can help educate me about this type of hate and how we can fight it," Leonard said at the time.
Leonard has since spoken and worked with several Jewish groups, conducted a number of basketball camps for Jewish children and apologized numerous times for what he said and his ignorance about what the term meant.
Leonard, who turns 31 on Feb. 27, has career averages of 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 16 minutes in 447 games with the Portland Trail Blazers and Heat.
Portland selected him with the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Leonard spent seven seasons with the Trail Blazers before coming to Miami in 2019.
His arrival in Milwaukee could help the Bucks deal with their lack of frontcourt depth as two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis recover from injuries.
Antetokounmpo sprained his right wrist last week at Chicago and went to New York on Monday to have it examined.
Portis hasn't played since Jan. 23 due to a sprained medial collateral ligament.
Posted: 8:35 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2023
MIAMI (AP) — Meyers Leonard is getting another chance at the NBA, nearly two years after he used an anti-Semitic slur while playing a video game that was being livestreamed.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said Leonard and the Milwaukee Bucks have agreed on a 10-day contract, opening the door for the 7-foot center to play in an NBA game for the first time since January 2021. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
ESPN first reported the agreement between Leonard and the Bucks.
Leonard's career was jeopardized and his reputation was seriously damaged on March 8, 2021 when it was discovered that he used a slur while playing an online game as others watched on a livestream. The Heat told him to stay away from the team indefinitely, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined him $50,000 and Miami eventually traded him to Oklahoma City.
Leonard said then that he knew he'd used a bad term, but was unaware of the term's meaning. In an apology, he said "my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong." He immediately began scheduling meetings with Holocaust survivors, rabbis in South Florida and other community leaders.
That was the start of him spending much of the last two years trying to atone for what he did — almost all of it quietly, in a deliberate effort to quash any notion his work was simply done to get positive media coverage. He has spoken and worked with several Jewish groups on various things, put on a number of basketball camps for Jewish children and apologized countless times for what he said and his ignorance about what the term meant.
Leonard was not going to play in the remainder of that 2020-21 season after suffering a shoulder injury in January of 2021, two months before the incident. He has since dealt with ankle and other issues, but has been working toward an NBA return for months.
For the Bucks, the move carries almost no risk. They'll get 10 days to see if Leonard — who was with Miami for its run to the 2020 NBA Finals in the restart bubble at Walt Disney World — can help with their playoff push.
Most players and coaches chose to kneel in that bubble for the playing of the U.S. and Canadian national anthems when the NBA season resumed there. Leonard stood instead, his hand over his heart, and did so with the support of Heat teammates.
"I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people," Leonard told The Associated Press at the time.
For his career, Leonard has averaged 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds on 48% shooting, 39% from 3-point range.