"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," Leonard wrote. "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."
The statement comes after a clip of him calling a fellow gamer a "f--king k--e b---h" went viral Tuesday (warning: video contains profanity and an anti-Semitic slur):
A Heat representative told the New York Times' Marc Stein the team is looking into the video.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass also issued a statement: "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."
Over the years, Leonard has built a steady following through his streaming sessions on Twitch. Multiple companies announced they have severed partnerships with him in the wake of his use of the slur:
Leonard is currently recuperating from season-ending shoulder surgery.
Broadly speaking, his use of the slur comes at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States.
The Anti-Defamation League recorded 2,107 incidents of anti-Semitism across the country in 2019, the highest number since 1979. A year earlier, Robert Bowers opened fire at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people in what was the deadliest attack on Jews ever in the U.S.
The ADL noted the trend of anti-Semitic incidents began rising in 2016. In November, the American Jewish Council noted the FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Report found that 60 percent of religious-based hate crimes in 2019 targeted Jewish people, though they make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population.
When a mob in support of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in January, anti-Semitic imagery was used by those who took part.