Ja Morant Suspended for 25 Games After Second Gun Video

Ja Morant Suspended for 25 Games After Second Gun Video

The N.B.A. suspended Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant for 25 games without pay to start the 2023-24 season after a league investigation found that he had posed with a gun in a video streamed on social media for the second time in just over two months.

Morant was suspended for eight games after the first video in March. On Friday, N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver said it was “alarming and disconcerting” that Morant had repeated his behavior after telling the league and the public that he wouldn’t.

“The potential for other young people to emulate Ja’s conduct is particularly concerning,” Silver said in a statement announcing the new punishment. “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.”

The most recent video, which was streamed live on a friend’s Instagram account on May 13, showed the 23-year-old Morant waving a gun around in a vehicle. The N.B.A. said an investigation found that Morant knew he was being streamed live on Instagram.

In the first video, Morant was in a nightclub in Colorado after the Grizzlies had faced the Denver Nuggets.

“For Ja, basketball needs to take a back seat at this time,” Silver said.

Morant, in a statement Friday, apologized to the league, Silver, his teammates, fans and the city of Memphis.

“I’m sorry for the harm I’ve done,” he said. “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.”

He added: “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.”

The Grizzlies, who had immediately suspended Morant from all team activities after the second video, said in a statement Friday that they respected the league’s decision.

“Our standards as a league and team are clear, and we expect that all team personnel will adhere to them,” the Grizzlies said.

Morant, a two-time All-Star who won the N.B.A.’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2020, has faced an upheaval in his public image over the past 12 months.

His dynamic play made him a fixture on highlight shows, and he has led the Grizzlies to the playoffs three times, including this season. He has had one of the league’s best-selling jerseys, and this spring, Nike released his first signature sneaker — typically a signifier of true N.B.A. stardom.

For the moment, Nike appears to be standing by Morant.

“We are pleased that Ja is taking accountability and prioritizing his well-being,” Nike said in a statement on Friday. “We will continue to support him on and off the court.”

Nike also stood by Morant as he faced an avalanche of criticism after the first video. He took a leave of absence, citing his mental health, and said he checked into a health facility in Florida.

After the first suspension, Morant sat down for an interview on ESPN with Jalen Rose, a former player who is now an analyst, and said the gun in Colorado wasn’t his.

“I made a bad mistake,” Morant said. “I can see the image that I painted over myself with my recent mistakes. But in the future, I’m going to show everybody who Ja really is, what I’m about and change this narrative that everybody got.”

The first suspension might have cost Morant a slot on a second All-N.B.A. team, and with that, a contract incentive of tens of millions of dollars.

As the N.B.A. investigated the second video last month, Silver told ESPN in a televised interview that he was “shocked,” since he thought Morant had taken his concerns about gun safety seriously after the first suspension.

But even before the gun videos, Morant’s image had taken a hit because of a series of off-court incidents beginning last July. This includes an accusation that Morant and a friend beat up a teenager named Josh Holloway, who has since sued Morant, during a pickup basketball game at Morant’s house. Morant said he was defending himself. A security guard at a Memphis-area mall also accused Morant of threatening him after Morant came to the mall because his mother was having a dispute in a shoe store.

The N.B.A. players’ union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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