When the NBA handed down its much anticipated punishment to Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant for brandishing a gun on social media for a second time, some critics deemed his 25-game suspension to be too harsh. Unfortunately, it’s hard to agree with this assessment.
Morant was suspended in March for eight games after an Instagram Live video showed him displaying a firearm while in an intoxicated state at a Denver-area nightclub. Morant was apologetic after the fact and decided to spend a short period of time at a counseling facility in Florida. Two months later, the two-time All-Star was filmed in a car flashing a firearm again while knowing he was being recorded on Instagram.
The fact of the matter is, Morant did not learn his lesson the first time around and there is no excuse for him exhibiting the same behavior for a second time within two months of the first incident. While Morant is young (23), he is old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. Not only is he damaging his reputation, he may be impacting future opportunities in the league.
Morant’s suspension begins immediately and will remain in effect through the first 25 games of the 2023-24 NBA regular season for which he is otherwise eligible and able to play. He will also be required to meet certain conditions before he returns to play and will be ineligible to participate in any public league or team activities, including preseason games, during the course of his suspension.
“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,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “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.”
One of the most vocal bodies when it came to Morant’s suspension was NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio: “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 with this particular incident, and that is not fair and consistent with past discipline in our league. We will explore with Ja all options and next steps.”
While it’s not clear what previous precedent’s Tremaglio is referring to, there are some examples to draw from. When Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton were both suspended in 2010 for an incident involving guns in the Washington Wizards locker room, Arena’s was suspended 50 games and Crittenton was hit with 38 games.
Being that Morant’s guns were not on team property, it seems like a reasonable punishment if you look at the case of Arenas and Crittenton. In a completely different case, Miles Bridges served a 30-game suspension for pleading no contest to a felony domestic violence charge.
While the excessiveness of Morant’s punishment is debatable, the NBA had no choice but to show that it will not tolerate similar behavior. Quite frankly, Morant brought this outcome on himself by repeating the same actions that originally got him suspended for eight games. Perhaps sitting out a chunk of the NBA season will save Morant’s future and allow him to get the help he needs to continue his rise in the league.