Monday saw Meyers Leonard make it back to a University of Illinois basketball game for the first time since 2012, when he was playing for the Illini. Leonard and his wife Elle donated $500,000 to the program, with the donation going towards the new basketball practice facility.
Meyers was honored on the State Farm Center court, during the first media timeout, and while this was indeed a special moment, what happened with Leonard in the press room, about an hour earlier, was much bigger than basketball.
At this pt, the therapy, EMDR, mental health aspect of the Meyers Leonard story is the most relevant and compelling.
We know what he said, we've heard him apologize. We know he's put in the work and effort, for/within the Jewish community. That's been covered extensively already https://t.co/ZDwGTThOir
— Paul M. Banks (@PaulMBanks) January 17, 2022
The second question of the presser (we have the video for you here– you need to hear Leonard’s quotes in his own voice, instead of just transcribed here) pertained to psychotherapy, mental health problems and the social stigmas attached to both.
It was a very deep, two part question, but the response from Meyers Leonard was very powerful and emotional. It starts around the 2:45 mark in the video and it continues to about the 13:30 mark.
In his approximately ten and a half minute answer, Leonard addressed the elephant in the room. By this point, anyone who is reading this, most likely knows about the Anti-Semitic slur he uttered while gaming on Twitch last year.
You’ve heard him apologize for it, and you most likely know about the works of atonement that he’s completed as he seeks forgiveness from the Jewish community.
Meyers Leonard didn’t waste much time before addressing the elephant in the room. I asked Meyers what he plans to say to Jewish community members on campus today. Says he’s planning to sincerely apologize & is hoping for forgiveness. Planning to chat with him one-on-one in a sec. pic.twitter.com/j7LQskjXbw
— Gavin Good (@itsallG_O_O_D) January 17, 2022
He’s not done either, as he plans to do much more. Later today he’ll be speaking to the Jewish communities on campus, apologizing again, and seeking forgiveness.
He went on the official Fighting Illini podcast, hosted by Illini all-time leading scorer and radio man Deon Thomas. Listen to the whole pod if you can (again you need to hear Leonard’s quotes in his own voice, instead of just transcribed here), but pay special attention at the 10 minute, and then 16 minute mark, through to about the 28 minute mark.
That’s where he discusses therapy, how and why he sought it out, and the magnitude of our childhood experiences in shaping who we are as adults. After uttering the slur, Leonard received death and rape threats against him and his wife.
It was a truly traumatic experience for him and his family, and psychotherapy has been an essential part of his coping process.
Specifically, he has utilized EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), a psychotherapy for trauma resolution that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experience.
When discussing his ongoing journey through and with mental health, at the SFC podium this morning, Meyers Leonard nearly broke down crying. Not just because of what he went through with personal attacks, but also his harkening back to his childhood, which saw him lose his father at a very early age.
It’s clear that Leonard, a nine year veteran of the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat, realizes the very big mistake he’s made, how ignorant and hurtful he was in what he said, and that he’s genuinely sorry for what he did.
If Deon Thomas, who converted to Judaism and achieved dual citizenship (Israel and the USA) can forgive him, so can we. More importantly, if he can seek help, and then talk openly about his seeking help, then so can all of us.
In the same pod, Thomas mentioned that he himself has also in recently begun psychotherapy. His message mirrored that of Meyers Leonard.
We spoke with Thomas in the media room this morning as well, and we discussed how far society has come, regarding the stigma against mental health disorders.
We also conversed about just how far society still has to go. Look no further than the backlashes against Simone Biles and Noami Osaka for evidence of that.
Leonard said that NBA teams are still keen on signing him, but it’s his current injuries that are keeping him out of the league.
He admitted that the slur incident hasn’t helped his cause, but it’s not the reason he isn’t with a team right now. The most important take away from today though, in regards to the 11th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft is the main message of his presser.
If you feel you need help, seek it. If you feel you need to reach out and see/talk to a psychotherapist, please do so. Do not hesitate.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Leave a Reply