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Grace in the age of cancel culture

By James Barraford

After using an anti-Semitic term while livestreaming a video game, Meyers Leonard will no longer play for the Miami Heat.

A trade was made with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was waived from the team March 25.

It is imperative as a society, that we begin to question why anytime a person makes a mistake, our first instinct is to cancel them.

The Miami Heat released a team statement, which unequivocally denounced the use of such language.

Meyers released a statement, apologizing for using the oIensive term.

“The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise,” the statement said.

Twitter was left ablaze. Another rising star needed to be dragged down to perfect our broken society.

On March 10, Julian Edelman, wide receiver for the New England Patriots, did something unusual for the world of Twitter.

He offered mercy.

On Wednesday’s post, Edelman reached out to Leonard with his own statement.

“So, we’ve never met I hope we can one day soon,” Edelman said. “I’m sure you’ve been getting lots of criticism for what you said. Not trying to add to that, I just want to offer some perspective.”

Edelman said he doesn’t believe he used the pejorative term with malicious intent.

“Casual ignorance is hard to combat and has greater reach, especially when you command great influence,” Edelman said.

He concluded the statement with an oIer.

“I’m down in Miami fairly often,” Edelman said. “Let’s do a Shabbat dinner with some friends I’ll show you a fun time.”

Edelman could have said nothing. Or he could have joined the chorus.

He had no obligation to Meyer.

Instead, he offered Leonard a chance at redemption.

I hope that Leonard accepts the offer. Hopefully it will be a bright day in a dimming world.

Is it possible that sometimes people aren’t necessarily evil when they say ignorant things?

What does it say about us as a country that our first impulse is to “cancel?”

Can you cancel a life?

Leonard apologized the same day and took accountability for his actions. No other accusations have been leveled against him.

What if we could sit with ignorance with assertiveness and grace.

My hope is that he will have another opportunity to play basketball. I hope he won’t be defined by this bad moment.

The anti-Semitic slur that Leonard used was totally unacceptable. A meaningful punishment of some sort was required.

His removal from the team will not make the world a purer place.

As Charles Barkley put it simply on TNT’s, Inside the NBA, “He made a huge mistake.”

“We live in a society today,” Barkley said. “They call it the cancel culture, when everybody says something stupid or dumb, we want to end their life.”

“I’m not a big believer in that,” Barkley said.

In the rush to become a tolerant society, have we forgotten to be forgiving of mistakes?

What’s interesting about Barkley’s statement is how he made reference to death when it came to cancel culture.

We want to end their life. Life as they knew it.

While some examples of cancellation are completely acceptable – Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, etc – at some point, we must draw a line to distinguish between criminals and dumb choices.

Our society feels the desire to lay waste to those who have royally screwed up.

There are many reasons we have arrived at this moment. Powerful Ggures have often hid behind their prestige and bank accounts to avoid facing the gavel of justice.

Yet, is there not a way to confront this reality without becoming what we hate?

Edelman not only showed compassion – he gave clear boundaries.

Endless rage, as I am beginning to understand myself, will not bring about a fairer world.

Maybe our redemption can be gained when we give a hand to those who have fallen.

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