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December 3, 2023
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Ja Morant suspended 25 games by NBA for latest gun incident; NBPA decries ‘excessive and inappropriate’ punishment

Ja Morant suspended 25 games by NBA for latest gun incident; NBPA decries ‘excessive and inappropriate’ punishment

Ja Morant was suspended for 25 games to start the 2023-24 NBA season following the most recent instance of the Memphis Grizzlies star brandishing a firearm on social media, the league announced Friday.

Two months after NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended Morant for eight games for a series of off-court infractions, including multiple gun-related incidents, Morant flashed a handgun while in a vehicle during an Instagram Live video last month. The league launched an investigation, which it concluded prior to the NBA Finals. Morant was an indefinite suspension from the Grizzlies.

In a short statement Friday, the Grizzlies said they respected the league’s decision to suspend Morant. The team added, “Our standards as a league and team are clear, and we expect that all team personnel will adhere to them.”

Morant “will also be required to meet certain conditions before he returns to play,” the league said in a statement.

NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio issued a statement later Friday, calling the suspension “excessive and inappropriate.”

“Ja has expressed his remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions, and we support him unequivocally as he does whatever is necessary to represent himself, our players and our league in the best possible light,” Tremaglio said in the statement. “As to the discipline imposed, which keeps him off the court until December and requires some unstated conditions to be met before he can return, we believe it is excessive and inappropriate for a number of reasons including the facts involved in this particular incident, and that it is not fair and consistent with past discipline in our league. We will explore with Ja all options and next steps.”

The league “uncovered a fair amount of additional information” during its investigation, Silver said during his annual state-of-the-league address prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat on June 1.

“Ja Morant’s decision to once again wield a firearm on social media is alarming and disconcerting given his similar conduct in March for which he was already suspended eight games,” Silver said in the NBA’s statement Friday. “The potential for other young people to emulate Ja’s conduct is particularly concerning. Under these circumstances, we believe a suspension of 25 games is appropriate and makes clear that engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior with guns will not be tolerated.

“For Ja, basketball needs to take a back seat at this time. Prior to his return to play, he will be required to formulate and fulfill a program with the league that directly addresses the circumstances that led him to repeat this destructive behavior.”

Morant also released a statement Friday in which he apologized to the league and fans. He said he would spend the offseason working on his mental health and decision making, and would “make it up to” everyone he disappointed.

“I’ve had time to reflect and I realize how much hurt I’ve caused,” Morant said in the statement. “I want to apologize to the NBA, the Grizzlies, my teammates and the city of Memphis. To Adam Silver, Zach Kleiman and Robert Pera — who gave me the opportunity to be a professional athlete and have supported me — I’m sorry for the harm I’ve done. To the kids who look up to me, I’m sorry for failing you as a role model. I promise I’m going to be better. To all my sponsors, I’m going to be a better representation of our brands. And to all my fans, I’m going to make it up to you, I promise.

“I’m spending the offseason and my suspension continuing to work on. my own mental health and decision making. I’m also going to be training so that I’m ready to go when I can be back on the court. I know my teammates are going to hold it down and I’m so sorry I won’t be out there with you at the beginning of the season.

“I hope you’ll give me the chance to prove to you over time I’m a better man than what I’ve been showing you.”

Nike also released a statement regarding Morant, whose first signature shoe was released in December:

Morant has not been charged with any crimes as a result of his actions. However, the NBA has become increasingly concerned with Morant’s behavior during what he has described as a trying year mentally. After suffering a hand injury during his team’s first-round series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Morant told the media, “I’m just pretty much numb to everything now. I’m not even surprised. It’s one thing after another.”

Police conducted a wellness check on Morant in late May after the 23-year-old posted to Instagram a series of captions over pictures of his loved ones that read, “Love ya ma,” “Love ya pops,” “You da greatest babygirl love ya,” and, simply, “Bye.” Morant told police “he is fine” and “taking a break from social media.”

The NBA suspended Morant for eight games in March after he filmed himself on Instagram Live flashing a gun from the Colorado strip club Shotgun Willie’s. The suspension came on the heels of a Washington Post report that outlined three separate incidents involving Morant, two of which were reported to police.

A 17-year-old reportedly alleged to authorities that the two-time All-Star punched him in the head and threatened him with a gun during a pickup basketball game at Morant’s house in July 2022. That same month, Morant and his confidantes were reportedly asked to leave a Memphis mall parking lot following a verbal altercation at a Finish Line shoe store. A security guard alleged that Morant threatened him and a friend of the Grizzlies star assaulted him in the parking lot. Neither allegation resulted in criminal charges.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant will miss the first 25 games of the 2023-24 NBA season after a second livestreamed gun incident on social media resulted in the NBA suspension. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

In January, members of the Indiana Pacers organization alleged to The Athletic that Morant’s friends confronted them inside FedEx Forum, allegedly pointing a red laser at them that they believed was “100%” attached to a gun. A league investigation “could not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon,” but multiple Morant associates were barred from games as a result of the confrontation.

Morant took a leave of absence from the Grizzlies in early March and entered a counseling program in Florida to “work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being,” he said in a statement. He left the clinic days later and met with Silver at the NBA’s New York office on March 15.

“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous. It also has serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among young fans who look up to him,” Silver said in a statement announcing Morant’s eight-game suspension without pay, which made him eligible to return March 20. “He has expressed sincere contrition and remorse for his behavior. Ja has also made it clear to me that he has learned from this incident and that he understands his obligations and responsibility to the Memphis Grizzlies and the broader NBA community extend well beyond his play on the court.”

Morant returned to the Grizzlies on March 22, less than three weeks from their game in Denver. He suffered a hand injury during Memphis’ Game 1 loss to the Lakers in the first round and missed his team’s Game 2 victory. He scored 45 points in Game 3 but just 10 during a 40-point loss in a season-ending Game 6. The Grizzlies won 51 games this past season and entered the playoffs as the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed.

Morant’s eight-game ban limited him to 61 regular season games and cost him an All-NBA roster spot, which would have boosted his maximum contract another $40 million over the next five years. His latest suspension will prevent him from meeting the new 65-game threshold for All-NBA eligibility in 2023-24.

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