Memphis guard Ja Morant has been suspended 25 games by the NBA — his second suspension in four months — and commissioner Adam Silver made it clear Friday that the star must stop his “alarming” habit of flashing guns on social media.
The suspension for the upcoming season comes a month after another video of Morant flashing a gun was streamed online. The video of Morant displaying a gun while in the passenger seat of a car was posted after his eight-game suspension in March for a video of him flashing a gun at a Denver-area strip club.
Morant is due to make about $33.5 million this season. He now stands to lose just over $300,000 per game – or approximately $7.5 million. He will also have to meet certain conditions before being reinstated, the NBA said.
Silver made it clear that the two-time All-Star’s decision-making is “disturbing.”
“The potential for other young people to imitate Ja’s behavior is particularly troubling,” Silver said. “Under the circumstances, we believe a 25 game suspension is appropriate and make it clear that engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior with a weapon will not be tolerated.”
The league said Morant “will be unable to participate in any public league or team activities, including preseason games” during his suspension.
The Grizzlies suspended Morant indefinitely from team activities after the second video surfaced, and they said Friday they are respecting the punishment for this “latest episode.”
“Our standards as a league and team are clear and we expect all team personnel to adhere to them,” the Grizzlies said.
Morant apologized again Friday to the league, the Grizzlies, his teammates and the city of Memphis in a statement issued through his representatives. He specifically told Silver, Grizzlies owner Robert Pera and Memphis general manager Zach Kleiman that he is sorry.
The guard, sporting his own signature Nike shoes, also apologized to kids who look up to him for letting them down as a role model. Morant made it clear that he has had time to reflect and understands the harm he could have caused.
“I promise I will get better. To all my sponsors, I will be a better representation of our brands. And to all my fans, I will make it up to you, I promise,” Morant said.
Morant said he will continue to work on both his mental health and decision-making.
On May 24, police conducted a welfare check on Morant and said he was “fine” after cryptic messages appeared on the guard’s Instagram account only to be deleted. A police spokesman said Morant told officers he was “taking a break from social media.”
“I hope you will give me the chance to prove to you over time that I am a better man than what I have shown you,” Morant said Friday.
NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said the players association believes the NBA went too far in punishing Morant, calling it “excessive and inappropriate” and inconsistent with the league’s past discipline.
“We will, together with Ja, explore all options and next steps,” Tremaglio said in a statement.
Nike is also sticking with Morant, whose Ja 1 shoe line debuted earlier this year.
“We are happy that Ja is taking responsibility and prioritizing her well-being,” Nike said.
Silver’s position is clear: Morant’s actions, even without being charged with a crime, have serious consequences, especially with gun violence a massive problem and the guard being one of the league’s most popular players.
“Waving them around … is inconsistent with gun safety and is not the right message for an NBA player, especially one at Ja’s level, to send to the tens of thousands of fans he has — and especially when an incident once again where it has been streamed live on social media,” Silver said earlier this month at the NBA Finals.
The suspension almost certainly means Morant will not be eligible for any end-of-season awards in 2024, such as MVP and All-NBA. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, which takes effect July 1, a player must appear in 65 games (with limited exceptions) to be eligible.
It’s also fair to believe that Morant will miss the league’s first regular season tournament, which is expected to start this fall and end sometime in December. The league has not yet announced whether the tournament will definitely take place, nor has it released the schedule.
Morant’s 8-game suspension cost him about $669,000 in lost wages after the first video surfaced March 4 on his own Instagram account.
The second video, recorded on May 13, was widely shared online after being streamed by a Morant employee. It was the same friend Morant said in February had been banned from the Grizzlies’ home court for a year because of a confrontation with members of the Indiana Pacers organization a week earlier.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this story.
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