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Julian Edelman Writes Open Letter to Meyers Leonard: 'Hate Is Like a Virus'

A day after Heat forward Meyers Leonard apologized for using an antisemitic word while playing Call of Duty during a live Twitch stream, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman wrote an open letter to Leonard about the incident. 

Edelman, who is Jewish, started the letter by saying he did not want to add to the criticism that Leonard has faced within the last 24 hours but wanted to offer some "perspective."

"I get the sense you didn't use that word out of hate, more out of ignorance," Edelman wrote. "Most likely, you weren't trying to hurt anyone or even profile Jews in your comment. That's what makes it so destructive.

"When someone intends to be hateful, it's usually met with great resistance. Casual ignorance is harder to combat and has greater reach, especially when you command great influence. Hate is like a virus. Even accidentally, it could rapidly spread." 

Edelman ended the letter with an invitation to a Shabbat dinner in Miami, where he said he would show Leonard a "fun time." 

A clip of Leonard saying the antisemitic word while streaming on Twitch surfaced on social media on Tuesday afternoon. Leonard, 29 and an avid gamer, said "“F------ cowards, don’t f------ snipe at me you f------ k--- b----.”

Leonard apologized for the incident on Tuesday evening, writing in a statement that he used the antisemitic slur during a livestream on Monday, and saying that he "didn't know what the word meant at the time."

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"My ignorance about history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong," Leonard said. "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.

"This is not a proper representation of who I am and I want to apologize to the Arisons, my teammates, coaches, front office and everyone associated with the Miami Heat organization."

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement Tuesday that it is investigating the incident, adding that "the NBA unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech." 

The Heat released a statement on Tuesday evening saying that the team "vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech," and that Leonard will be away from the team indefinitely throughout the league's investigation. 

Last month, Leonard underwent successful surgery on his injured shoulder and he is expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Edelman has reached out to athletes in similar situations before. Last summer, following NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson sharing antisemitic messages on social media, Edelman addressed Jackson's posts and said that "I’m proud of my Jewish heritage and, for me, it’s not just about religion. It’s about community and culture as well. This world needs a little more love, compassion, and empathy." 

He also offered to take Jackson to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.