What did Meyers Leonard say? Meaning of deeply offensive anti-semitic slur used by Miami Heat player

Leonard has been suspended indefinitely following his use of the deeply offensive word ‘kike’

An NBA basketball player has been condemned for using a deeply offensive anti-semitic slur.

Meyers Leonard, a center for Miami Heat, made the comments while streaming on platform Twitch.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The clip quickly went viral and his future with the NBA franchise is now in doubt following a strongly worded condemnation from the team.

Meyers Leonard of Miami Heat called a fellow gamer a "kike" (Getty Images)
Meyers Leonard of Miami Heat called a fellow gamer a "kike" (Getty Images)

An investigation into Leonard’s use of anti-semitic language is underway by the NBA while FaZe Clan, an eSports organisation, have parted company with the player.

Leonard has apologised for using the term.

What did Meyers Leonard say and what does it mean?

While streaming Call of Duty Leonard called another player a “f******g kike b***h”.

Kike is a derogatory term for a Jewish person.

The origins of the word are disputed with one theory posed by Philip Cowen, editor of “The American Hebrew,” that it derives from the Yiddish word kikel, or, circle.

The Jewish Times explains: “He suggests that Jewish immigrants, not knowing the Latin alphabet, signed their entry forms with a circle rather than the customary X, which signified Christianity. On this theory, Ellis Island immigration inspectors began calling such people kikels, and the term shortened as time passed.”

Another theory presented by Anatoly Liberman suggests the slur derives from “Hayyim, transcribed in German as Chaim. Kaim Jew was recorded in mid-18th-century German cant. Then, we are told, since Jewish speakers took -im of Kaim as a plural ending in Hebrew, they created a new singular kai”.

How did Miami Heat respond?

The South Florida team, who are owned by Israeli-American businessman Micky Arison, released a statement condemning Leonard.

It read: “The Miami Heat vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech.

“The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise. To hear it from a Miami Heat player is especially disappointing and hurtful to all those who work here, as well as the larger South Florida, Miami Heat and NBA communities.”

A spokesman for the NBA said: “We just became aware of the video and are in the process of gathering more information. The NBA unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech.”

Meyers Leonard apology

Leonard apologised saying he didn’t know hat the word meant.

In a statement on Instagram he wrote: “I am deeply sorry for using an antisemitic slur during a livestream yesterday.

"While I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, 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.”

Meyers Leonard has previously played for the Portland Trailblazers and was selected with the 11th pick in the 2012 NBA draft.