For the second time in a little more than two months, the NBA has suspended two-time Memphis Grizzlies All-Star Ja Morant over his brandishing a handgun during an Instagram Live video.
The ban, this time, is for 25 games, the league announced Friday in a statement.
“Morant posed with a firearm in a car during a live-streamed video on May 13, less than two months after he was suspended eight games without pay for the live streaming of a video on March 4 in which he displayed a firearm while in an intoxicated state at a Denver area nightclub,” the NBA said in a statement.
The league office found that, on May 13, Morant intentionally and prominently displayed a gun while in a car with several other individuals as they were leaving a social gathering in Memphis. Morant wielded the firearm while knowing that he was being recorded and that the recording was being live-streamed on Instagram Live, despite having made commitments to the NBA and public statements that he would not repeat the conduct for which he was previously disciplined. On May 16, Morant issued a statement taking full accountability for his actions.
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Morant again issued a statement after the latest suspension was announced, saying he will spend the “offseason and my suspension continuing to work on my own mental health and decision making.”
The Grizzlies said in a statement on Friday that they respect 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 statement read.
The league said that Morant will 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 suspension.
In Friday’s statement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in part:
“… 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.”
But the player’s union was not too happy about the length of Morant’s suspension.
“Ja has expressed his remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions, and we support him unequivocally as he does whatever is necessary to represent himself, our players and our league in the best possible light,” NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement. “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 in this particular incident, and that it is not fair and consistent with past discipline in our league. We will explore with Ja all options and next steps.”
The day that recordings of the most recent video began circulating online, the Grizzlies had announced that Morant was being suspended from all team activities.
The livestream was posted May 13 to the account of _dtap2, who describes himself as a YouTuber and founder of a clothing brand. Recordings show four people singing and dancing in a car. Morant, 23, is seen in the video sitting in the front passenger seat. At one point, the camera pans to Morant, who appears to be holding a handgun in his left hand, pointed upward, near his head. The camera quickly pans away, but screenshots of the moment clearly show an object that resembles a handgun.
At the time, it was unclear whether the gun was real, whether it belonged to Morant, or when and where the recording was made.
The Grizzlies went 5-3 during Morant’s March suspension and finished the regular season 51-31, good for the second seed in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, in six games.
Morant had 10 points and shot 3-for-16 from the floor in the deciding game of the series.
Morant averaged 26.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in the 2022-23 season.
When did Ja Morant previously get in trouble for brandishing gun on Instagram Live?
Morant had previously served an eight-game suspension over a similar incident, when he brandished a gun at a nightclub in a Denver suburb in a March 4 Instagram Live that he posted to his own account. That livestream came hours after the Grizzlies played the Nuggets in an eventual 113-97 Memphis defeat.
Morant issued a statement later that day, indicating that he was “going to take some time away” to get help on managing stress and his overall well-being.
The NBA opened an investigation into the matter and eventually issued its suspension. Police in Colorado also launched an investigation but later said there was “not enough available evidence” to charge Morant with any crime.
During the March suspension, Morant entered a counseling program in Florida.
Does Ja Morant have any other previous gun-related incidents?
Previously, in January, the NBA investigated an incident after a Jan. 29 game against the Pacers, when members of the Indiana traveling party told NBA investigators they were “aggressively confronted” by Morant’s acquaintances after the teams played that day. A person with knowledge of the matter confirmed to IndyStar and USA TODAY Sports that multiple members of the Pacers said they saw a red laser dot pointed at them.
The Athletic was first to report details of the incident and also reported that a Pacers security guard believed the laser was attached to a gun.
The NBA said it interviewed several eye witnesses and reviewed security footage, but could not corroborate that any individual was threatened with a weapon during the incident.
Contributing: Jeff Zillgitt