The Washington Post
Morant is suspended eight games by the NBA
Grizzlies star could return Monday after gun video results in retroactive ban
The NBA suspended Ja Morant eight games without pay for conduct detrimental to the league Wednesday, marking the completion of its investigation into a video live stream in which the Memphis Grizzlies star displayed a handgun and paving the way for his return to the court.
The retroactive suspension, which includes the five games he has missed since the March 4 incident at a Denver-area nightclub, will enable Morant to play as soon as the Grizzlies’ game Monday against the Dallas Mavericks. Grizzlies Coach Taylor Jenkins said Wednesday that Morant would rejoin the team Monday and return to game action following a “quick ramp-up period,” though he isn’t expected to play against the Mavericks.
“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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. 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.”
The NBA’S investigation determined that Morant was “holding a firearm in an intoxicated state while visiting” Shotgun Willie’s, a Glendale, Colo., nightclub.
However, the league did not conclude that Morant was the owner of the weapon, that he brought the weapon into the club, that he displayed it for an
extended period of time other than on the video live stream or that he had possessed it in an NBA facility or while traveling with the Grizzlies on a team plane or bus. Had Morant possessed the weapon in an NBA facility, plane or bus, he would have been in violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement and potentially subject to further discipline.
The 23-year-old Morant met Wednesday with Silver; the NBA’S head of basketball operations, Joe Dumars; and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio at the league’s New York City offices to discuss the video. The NBPA had no immediate comment on the meeting or the suspension.
“The gun wasn’t mine,” Morant said in an ESPN interview Wednesday. “It’s not who I am. I don’t condone any type of violence. I take full responsibility for my actions. I made a bad mistake. I can see the image I painted over myself with my recent mistakes. In the future, I’m going to show everybody who Ja really is and what I’m about to change this narrative.”
Morant, a two-time all-star, has not played since a March 3 loss to the Denver Nuggets. Hours after the game, in the early morning on March 4, he went live on Instagram from Shotgun Willie’s and flashed a handgun as he danced and rapped.
After the video garnered significant attention on other social media platforms, Glendale police opened an investigation to determine whether Morant was under the influence of alcohol while possessing the firearm, which could have led to a charge of prohibited use of a weapon under Colorado law. Police concluded their investigation without filing charges against Morant or anyone else, they said, because “no disturbances were reported” on or after the night of the incident, “no one was threatened or menaced with the firearm” and no gun was located.
The Grizzlies initially announced Morant would be out at least two games and later said he would miss at least four more games, though they deemed his absence to be a leave rather than a suspension in both instances. Morant said in a statement after the incident that he was “going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better ways of dealing with my stress and my overall well-being,” and a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Wednesday that Morant recently spent time at a Florida counseling facility.
Morant told ESPN that he feels “mentally good [like] I haven’t been in many years” and that he has been “constantly talking to therapists” as well as using breathing exercises to release anxiety since the incident.
The NBA’S retroactive suspension will cost Morant more than $668,000 of his $12.1 million contract for this season. Last summer, Morant inked a five-year extension worth up to $230 million that will commence in the 2023-24 season.
Morant’s video came on the heels of a Washington Post story that detailed two incidents last year in which Morant and his friends were accused of violent and threatening behavior, including an allegation that Morant flashed a gun at a teenager after a fight at his Memphis home.
In the first incident, described in a police report obtained by The Post, Morant and several friends arrived at a Memphis mall after his mother had a dispute with an employee at a Finish Line shoe store, according to the mall’s security director, who described the events to police. The dispute spilled into the parking lot, the security officer said, where someone in Morant’s group pushed the officer.
“As the group was leaving the premises . . . Ja Morant said, ‘Let me find out what time he gets off,’ ” police wrote in the report.
No arrests were made, and no one was charged with a crime.
But four days later, Morant got into another altercation — this time with a teenager. Morant told police that the teenager, a local high school player, threw a ball at his head during a pickup basketball game, so he punched the boy in self-defense. In transcripts of police interviews, the boy told police that after the fight, as he was escorted off the property, Morant went into his home and emerged with a gun in the waistband of his pants, though he did not pull it.
Morant’s agent, Jim Tanner, issued a statement saying the allegations involving Morant and guns had “been fully investigated and could not be corroborated.”
Earlier this year, the Athletic reported that members of the Indiana Pacers organization believed someone riding in a car with Morant had trained a gun on them, saying they saw a laser beam pointing from the car following a game. The NBA looked into that incident and said in a statement that the investigation “did not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon.”
The league’s statement regarding its suspension of Morant made no mention of any incident besides the Colorado nightclub incident.