The process of canceling NBA player Meyers Leonard for using an anti-Semitic slur has begun in earnest.
The social-media condemnation machine is in full swing. The key players are taking their positions. His team, the Miami Heat, suspended him, releasing a statement disavowing Leonard’s behavior and “vehemently” condemning “the use of any form of hate speech.” The league has begun an investigation. Sponsors have dropped him. Who knows if he’ll ever be hired again? We’ve seen this movie before.
Or have we?
Well, maybe not.
Leonard, who was captured on the video app Twitch using the anti-Semitic k*** slur, issued a prompt apology, saying he was “deeply sorry” for his action.
“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,” his note read. “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.”
What should the Jewish world do with such an apology? Should we pile on and highlight this incident as yet another example of the rise in anti-Semitism?
Or should we embrace Leonard’s stated commitment to seek out people “who can help educate me about this type of hate and how we can fight it.”
Here’s what I think we should do: Let’s invite him for Shabbat dinner.
This is not my idea. It’s Julian Edelman’s idea. Edelman, a Jew who plays for the New England Patriots, posted an open letter on Twitter inviting Leonard to a Shabbat dinner so they could talk.
The letter reads, in part: “I get the sense that you didn’t use that word out of hate, more out of ignorance. 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 can rapidly spread.”
I love Edelman’s idea on so many levels. First, when someone expresses contrition, it’s very Jewish to create a path to forgiveness. Second, Leonard can become a major ally in the fight against anti-Semitism and hate of all kinds.
And third, he may even take to my favorite Jewish ritual: Friday night Shabbat dinner. In fact, next time Leonard is in L.A., I will gladly invite him to my own Shabbat table and have him taste some serious Sephardic cuisine.
Edelman’s approach is the very opposite of cancel culture and a great demonstration of tikkun olam (repair of the world). Only here, we’re helping an individual repair his offensive action.
We’ll live in a better world when instead of working to cancel, we’ll work to repair.
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp, and “Jewish Journal.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.