(JTA) — Nearly two years after NBA player Meyers Leonard was caught using an antisemitic slur on a video game platform, the former first-round pick opened up about the incident and his subsequent journey toward forgiveness in an interview with Jewish ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap.
“I know that I made a huge, huge mistake,” Leonard told Schaap, an 11-time Emmy winner who has produced other Jewish-themed content for ESPN. “And like, how in the world did this ever happen? I couldn’t harm a fly.”
Leonard, then a member of the Miami Heat, used the word “kike” while livestreaming a “Call of Duty” video game on the Twitch streaming platform in March 2021. The backlash was swift: Leonard was suspended by the Heat and fined by the league. He was then traded and released.
Leonard apologized the following day, writing, “I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic 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.”
The 7-footer was also injured at the time of the incident, and hasn’t played in the NBA since. But now he is healthy and attempting a comeback, having recently worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Schaap spoke to Leonard for the ESPN Daily podcast, relaying the experience to host Pablo Torre.
Leonard, who said he has not yet forgiven himself, told Schaap about the toll the mistake took on him, which included needing 24-hour security because of threats made against him and his family. He even thought about ending his life.
“I felt like I had just destroyed my life and everything that I had worked for, to be honest,” Leonard said.
Torre framed the Leonard episode in the context of Kyrie Irving’s recent antisemitism scandal, saying Irving “became the new face of the foremost antisemitism scandal, in not just NBA history, but modern sports history.”
Schaap alluded to the recent rise in antisemitism across the United States, including the deadly 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. “This has been, the last several years, a time at which the Jewish community has felt more under attack than it has in a long time,” Schaap said.
Schaap said he began his interview by asking if Leonard knew what he was saying when he used the slur.
“Absolutely not,” Leonard said. “Again, there are absolutely no excuses for what happened that day, and ignorance, sadly, is a very real thing. And that’s what I was.”
Leonard added that he likely learned the word from being active in online gaming, which is often a hotbed for antisemitism and other forms of hate.
Schaap and Torre provided a brief history and explanation of the slur, and Schaap said he was inclined to believe Leonard when he said he did not know its meaning.
“I talked to younger Jewish people from metropolitan areas who said they had never heard the word, and that was shocking to me,” said Schaap. “Now Meyers Leonard, of course, had heard the word, because he used it, which is different. But it does seem highly plausible to me, knowing all these younger Jewish people who don’t know what the word means, that he didn’t know what it means.”
Schaap and Leonard also retraced the timeline of the controversy, from the moment he uttered the word online to his engagement with the local Jewish community in South Florida. Just days after the incident, Leonard met with Pinny Andrusier, a rabbi affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in nearby Broward County.
“You’re a good man with a good soul,” Leonard recalled Andrusier telling him. “This happened for you, not to you. You’ll understand eventually.”
From there, Leonard met others in the local community, including Holocaust survivors, and also met with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
Schaap asked Leonard if he had absorbed anything from Jewish culture or tradition into his own life. His answer: love.
“Walk outside your door, love people,” Leonard said. “Be kind. Forgive. Through a big mistake of mine, I met a loving community. I met people who had been through extremely difficult times, yet they loved me. And they wanted me to love myself.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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