Ja Morant 8-game suspension was deserved, but what’s next?

I don’t want to see another “Morant” jersey again, barring the player’s name doesn’t start with “Ja.”

"Ja Morant dribbling" by All-Pro Reels is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
“Ja Morant dribbling” by All-Pro Reels is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

I wouldn’t consider that an over reaction at all because the Ja Morant Instagram controversy has me really pissed off. And maybe you should be too.

If you aren’t aware yet, Morant apparently displayed a gun in his hand while he was being recorded on an Instagram Live video as he, the driver and passenger danced and sang in the vehicle.

The backlash was swift.

Morant was previously suspended by the Grizzlies for eight games and returned in March after a similar incident. According to an article on NBA.com:

The league investigation found that Morant was “holding a firearm in an intoxicated state” — but did not prove the gun was owned by Morant “or was displayed by him beyond a brief period.” The NBA also did not find that Morant had the gun with him on Memphis’ flight to Denver, or that he possessed the gun in any NBA facility.

The Grizzlies released a statement on May 14 announcing Morant had been suspended from “all team activities pending League review” but it is not yet known if the NBA will suspend Morant.

In light of the second video of Morant holding a gun, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was “shocked” and the league is in the process of investigating.

I felt bad watching Silver in the video trying to respond to questions about the situation, it didn’t sound like he expected to confront a similar situation with Morant.

In response to the second video, Morant said he takes “full accountability.”

It remains to be seen what further action the NBA or Grizzlies takes against Morant, or if anything should be expected.

Currently, Morant’s Nike shoes, which were soon to be released, are reportedly also no longer available on the Nike website.

I find the situation to be disturbing and disheartening. Professional athletes are beloved — they are the other celebrity, but with much wider, less contentious influence, I would argue. An actor or singer can achieve fame, but there is rarely a consensus from the general public about their greatness — and the attributes that lend to it. The same, however, can’t be said for professional sports because their victories unfold before us, and everyone is keeping count. Anyone who has played sports, or simply loved watching, knows the true joy of victory, and the inevitable agony of defeat. (We can’t win ’em all.) So it comes as no shock to me that names like Jackie Robinson, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, Terrell Owens, and many others receive so much admiration — because they can do what the average person can’t… in different ways. It’s also one of the reasons so many people even love WWE and AEW wrestling — the physicality is not something you or I will ever have the fortune of doing or have the ability to do.

Morant, at just 23 years of age, has had a pretty impressive record so far. This season, Morant has averaged 26.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game. His potential is (or was) immense.

Kids and teens proudly wear the t-shirts and tout memorabilia of their heroes on the court and field everyday, even many adults. But they also parrot their sports heroes and envy their lifestyles… as impressionable young minds tend to do. The merchandise they or their parents buy adorned with the name of the athlete they obsess over is part of the business that keeps the NBA alive. And we know how much those names begin to mean at the register. In other words, parents, you and your kids pay for the lifestyle that enables athletes to do what they do, including cruising down an open road in a jeep, holding a gun in the air… like you just don’t care.

I think it goes without saying there is a gun problem in this country already, and no pun intended, but the timing of Morant’s video opened wounds. We have seen too many mass shootings, and even on a smaller scale, the number of young Black men killing each other is insane.

Morant lives in the same country we do, and he should be aware of his status and what is expected of him.

But there is something even more disturbing that needs to be analyzed here as well. The gun brandishing routine on social media is rampant, and it’s obvious to mature people like myself that there is a generation of young men of all races who are chasing “cool.” Unfortunately, pretending to be threatening and embracing materialism remains a cultural stereotype Black people can’t shake in America.

Trying to be cool is turning Black men cold-hearted, and it’s killing our families, our friends, our neighbors, and so on.

And Morant, with his multi-million contract and massive following, never needed to chase “cool,” which in my opinion, makes the situation he put himself in the aspect I find really disturbing.

If the youth think the money and fans weren’t “cool” enough for an NBA player (not that it necessarily should be), and know a gun is much easier to obtain, I wonder what types of decisions we can expect from them, especially the at-risk youth.

I think most of the public’s response to Ja Morant has been appropriate. But of course, there are people defending the behavior he displayed in the second Instagram Live video of him holding a gun.

I think the outrage can probably be even louder. I didn’t care for the judgment against Deontay Wilder for his recent gun possession arrest, but it’s fair to say that comparing his situation to Morant would be comparing apples to oranges, which unfortunately some people have wasted no time doing.

I explained earlier how athletes earn our respect and admiration for their uniqueness — what we can and can’t do, the differences between the average Joe and Joe Montana. This reality is a reason athletes like the amazing Muhammad Ali used their influence to lead from the front — and people followed. When a professional athlete is at the top of their game, we have seen how they can change a nation, and even move the world, thanks to the God-given talents that brought them fame. Athletes can be leaders and justifiably so, if they exhibit responsibility. I don’t think that describes Ja Morant. Not right now, at least.

If the people who look up to you see you performing the same irresponsible behavior as a wayward juvenile, how long do you think they will be around to follow you? From a business perspective, I would imagine the Grizzlies front office wants players who have short and long-term earning potential, and I would also imagine it’s hard to guarantee a generation of fans who enjoy flirting with death and bodily harm inspire confidence in that regard.

If Morant wants his name to mean something and have long-term value, maybe he should start reaching for something more meaningful — and show that to the world.

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