By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
Memphis guard Ja Morant has been suspended for the first 25 games of the upcoming season for flashing a handgun in a social media video for a second time, the NBA announced Friday.
The Grizzlies star player was shown in the video in May flashing the gun while sitting in the passenger seat of a car. The livestream on Instagram came after Morant served an eight-game suspension for a video in March showing him flashing a handgun in a strip club.
Morant is due to make around $33.5 million this season. He now stands to lose just over $300,000 per game during this suspension — or approximately $7.5 million. He also will have to adhere to certain conditions before being reinstated, the NBA said.
“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,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “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.”
The league said Morant “will be ineligible 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, in anticipation of an NBA sanction.
“We respect the League’s decision to suspend Ja Morant following this latest episode,” the Grizzlies said in a statement Friday. “Our standards as a league and team are clear, and we expect that all team personnel will adhere to them.”
The two-time All-Star apologized again Friday to the league, the Grizzlies, his teammates and the city of Memphis in a statement issued through his representatives. He told Silver, Grizzlies owner Robert Pera and Memphis general manager Zach Kleiman he is sorry for the harm he’s done after being given the chance to be a pro athlete.
Morant also apologized to children who look up to him for failing them as a role model. Morant made clear he’s had time to reflect and understands the hurt he might have caused.
“I promise I’m going to be better. To all of my sponsors, I’m going to be a better representation of our brands. And to all of my fans, I’m going to make it up to you, I promise,” Morant said.
Morant said he’ll use the offseason and this suspension to keep working 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 and were later deleted. A police spokesman said Morant told officers he was “taking a break from social media.”
“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,” Morant said Friday.
Silver’s stance is clear: Morant’s actions, even without being charged with a crime, have severe consequences, particularly at a time in the country where gun violence is a massive problem and Morant — one of the league’s most popular players — is looked to as a role model by children and adults alike.
“Waving them around, displaying them in a certain context, is not consistent with gun safety and is not the proper message that an NBA player, particularly one at Ja’s level, should be sending to the tens of millions of followers he has — and particularly when it’s an incident once again, where it’s been streamed live on social media,” Silver said earlier this month at the NBA Finals.
The suspension almost certainly means that 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 that goes into effect July 1, a player must appear in 65 games (with limited exceptions) to be eligible for awards.
It’s also reasonable to think that Morant will miss the league’s inaugural in-season tournament, which is expected to start this fall and end sometime in December. The league has yet to announce if the tournament is definitely happening, nor has it released the finalized schedule.
“For Ja, basketball needs to take a back seat at this time,” Silver said. “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.”
Morant’s eight-game suspension cost him about $669,000 in forfeited salary after the first video surfaced in March.
The second video captured May 13 was widely shared online after being streamed by a Morant associate.q