The NBA has decided that using an antisemitic slur is worth the same fine as violating COVID protocols or violating anti-tampering rules.
On August 9, 2020, Draymond Green was fined $50,000 for violating the anti-tampering rules when he made comments about Devin Booker. In an appearance on NBA on TNT, Green said “Get my man outta Phoenix. It’s not good for him. It’s not good for his career.”
On December 23, 2020, James Harden was fined $50,000 for violating the league’s Health and Safety protocol when pictures surfaced of him at a party with strippers.
On April 13, 2011, Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for using a gay slur when criticizing an official during a game.
The NBA has also suspended Meyers Leonard from participating in any team activities for one week, but because he is injured, he will not be forfeiting any game checks over that span. The league is also requiring that Leonard participate in a “cultural diversity program,” whatever the hell that means.
Under the CBA, this is the maximum that the league can levy against Leonard.
“We accept that he is genuinely remorseful,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We have further communicated to Meyers that derogatory comments like this will not be tolerated and he will be expected to uphold the core values of our league — equality, tolerance, inclusion and respect — at all times moving forward.”
They’re making him step away from the team for one week, and I’m sure his teammates are going to miss all the clapping he does from the bench. Apparently the league office is good with that being sufficient enough punishment for a disgusting display of intolerance.
According to the Miami Herald, the Heat organization has elected to “defer to the league and it’s investigation of the situation.” By doing so, and with them understanding that the league can only penalize Leonard so much, they are essentially saying that they don’t want the responsibility of action, and will allow the league to step in and do what it needs to do. That feels remarkably weak to me.
There have been voices from within the Heat organization, however, that have spoken out. Good on them for doing so.
“People gotta be held accountable for their actions,” Heat forward Andre Iguodala said. “The same thing in this scenario. You gotta be held accountable, you got to really understand your own actions. You just got to man up and realize it’s not right. It’s up to him to right his wrong.”
Teammate Udonis Haslem, who said he has Jewish friends that call him Udonis Haslem-Berg, said “we can’t tolerate that here, and right is right and wrong is wrong,” according to Sun Sentinel reporter Ira Winderman.
I couldn’t agree more. It can’t be tolerated. If the CBA doesn’t allow for a harsher penalty than a one-week vacation from the team affording Leonard plenty of time to keep playing his video games, then the responsibility should lie with the team to make a stand against hate speech.
Maybe it truly was an accident. Maybe Leonard honestly didn’t know the meaning of the word that he was using. That said, by not condemning hate speech with tangible actions instead of just a puffed up PR speech written by the league office, you open the door for continued displays of racial injustice and inequality, undermining the message and movement that you as a league, as teams, and as players are trying to communicate to fans. If it truly cannot be tolerated, then cut him.