The Memphis star has been suspended from all club operations pending the outcome of a league inquiry over a social media video uploaded over the weekend.
The Memphis Grizzlies suspended Ja Morant on Sunday after he seemed to be clutching a pistol in another social media video that was streamed live on Instagram, the latest in a string of troubling occurrences involving the two-time All-Star guard.
Morant was seen on Instagram clutching what seemed to be a weapon for the second time in less than three months. The first resulted in Morant receiving an eight-game NBA suspension in March, which cost him approximately $669,000 in compensation.
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It’s unclear what penalties Morant would face for the second video, which was recorded Saturday night and widely circulated online. The video was streamed on the Instagram account of Morant associate Davonte Pack, a person familiar with the issue told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the NBA nor the Grizzlies have commented on the nature of the latest video.
“We are aware of the social media post involving Ja Morant and are in the process of gathering more information,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
The Grizzlies, whose season is done, have suspended Morant from all team operations “pending league review.”
Pack’s footage shows Morant in the passenger seat of a car, briefly holding a pistol. The livestream had 111 watchers at the extremely brief instant — perhaps less than a second — when Morant is shown clutching what seems to be a weapon.
Morant was suspended during the season after going live on his own Instagram account while wielding a gun at a club in the Denver suburbs in early March. After that went viral, Morant said that he was taking a break from basketball to get help, without saying what kind of treatment he was receiving. Later, ESPN claimed that he was receiving counseling in Florida, which the team later acknowledged but did not elaborate.
“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless, and potentially very dangerous,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement after meeting with Morant and settling on the duration of the suspension. “It also has serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among young fans who look up to him.”
“He has expressed sincere contrition and remorse for his behavior,” Silver continued. “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.”
During his suspension, Morant spoke with ESPN and accepted responsibility for the video.
“I don’t condone any type of violence,” Morant told ESPN. “However, I accept complete responsibility for my actions.” I committed a poor error, and I can see the image I painted over myself with my recent faults. But in the future, I’m going to show everyone who Ja truly is, what I’m about, and rewrite this narrative.”
Morant stated again after the season finished a few weeks ago that he needed to work on his decision-making.
“Being disciplined on both sides, off the court making better decisions, and on the court being even more locked in,” Morant said after the Lakers’ season-ending loss. “As the team’s leader, it all starts with me.” “I need to improve in that area.”
Morant’s five-year, $194 million contract is due to begin this season. It could have risen to a supermax if he made All-NBA this season; he was not chosen onto that team, costing him nearly $39 million in future earnings. He has sponsorship deals with Nike and Powerade, though the sports drink firm removed an ad starring Morant nearly immediately after the March video surfaced.
His brilliance on the court is undeniable. He averaged 27.4 points last season and 26.2 points this season, helping Memphis earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Grizzlies’ season, however, ended in disarray. They were eliminated in Round 1 by the Lakers, losing by 40 points to end a series in which trash-talking and theatrics became as much of a topic as actual basketball play.
And the offseason is off to a shaky start as well, especially after Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins stated before the playoffs that the squad must remove “unnecessary drama, self-inflicted decisions that take away from the team.”
“It has to be completely different going into next year,” Jenkins said.
This will be at least the third known NBA inquiry into Morant and the probable involvement of guns in 2023.
Morant’s activities were reviewed following a Jan. 29 altercation in Memphis that he said resulted in Pack — whom Morant refers to as “my brother” — being barred from Grizzlies home games for a year.
The incident occurred after a game against the Indiana Pacers; The Indianapolis Star and USA Today reported, citing unnamed sources, that multiple Pacers players saw a red dot pointed at them while they were near the loading dock where their bus was located, and The Athletic reported that a Pacers security guard believed the laser was attached to a gun.
The NBA confirmed that nameless individuals were barred from the arena, but said their investigation found no evidence that anybody was threatened with a weapon.
Then there was the Denver-area incident in the early hours of March 4, following the Grizzlies’ away game versus the Nuggets. Morant began a webcast from inside Shotgun Willies in Glendale, Colorado, at 5:19 a.m. No charges were filed, and police claimed there were no complaints about Morant handling the gun.
Morant and Pack are also named in a civil lawsuit filed following an incident at Morant’s home last summer in which a then-17-year-old said they assaulted him. Morant filed a countersuit on April 12, charging the adolescent of slander, abuse, and assault.