Ja Morant was suspended by the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday after he appeared to be holding a gun in another social media video that was streamed live on Instagram, the latest in a series of concerning incidents involving the two-time All-Star guard.
It’s the second time in less than three months that Morant was seen on Instagram holding what appeared to be a weapon. The first led to an eight-game NBA suspension that was handed down in March and cost Morant about $669,000 in salary.
It’s unclear what sanctions Morant may face for the second video, which was captured Saturday night and widely shared online. The video was streamed on the Instagram account of Morant associate Davonte Pack, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither the NBA nor the Grizzlies have commented on the specifics of the latest video.
“We are aware of the social media post involving Ja Morant and are in the process of gathering more information,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
Statement from the Memphis Grizzlies pic.twitter.com/XXLjr6QtlG
— Grizzlies PR (@GrizzliesPR) May 14, 2023
The Grizzlies, whose season is over, said Morant is suspended from all team activities “pending league review.”
The video streamed by Pack shows Morant in the passenger seat of a vehicle, briefly appearing to display a handgun. At the very brief moment — maybe less than a second — when Morant is shown holding what appears to be a weapon, the livestream had 111 viewers.
The video that got Morant suspended during the season happened when the Grizzlies star went live on his own Instagram account while holding a gun at a club in the Denver suburbs in early March. After that went viral, Morant announced that he was taking time away from basketball to seek help, without specifying what sort of treatment he was getting. ESPN later reported that he was getting counseling in Florida, which the team eventually confirmed but did not share any details.
“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement after meeting with Morant and deciding on the suspension’s length. “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,” Silver continued. “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.”
Morant sat down for an interview with ESPN during his suspension, taking responsibility for the video.
“I don’t condone any type of violence,” Morant told ESPN. “But I take full responsibility for my actions. I made a bad mistake and 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.”
When the season ended a couple weeks ago, Morant said again that he needed to work on his decision-making.
“Being disciplined on both sides, off the court making better decisions and on the court being locked in even more,” Morant said following a season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. “Being a leader of this team, it pretty much starts with me. … I’ve got to be better in that area.”
Morant’s five-year, $194 million max contract is set to begin this coming season. It could have escalated to a supermax if he made All-NBA this season; he was not voted onto that team, which cost him about $39 million in future earnings. He has endorsement deals with Nike and Powerade, though the sports drink company pulled an ad featuring Morant almost immediately after the March video emerged.
His talent on the court is not a question. He averaged 27.4 points last season, 26.2 points this season and helped Memphis secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
But the Grizzlies’ season ended amid dysfunction. They were ousted in Round 1 by the Lakers, getting eliminated in a 40-point loss to close a series where trash-talking and antics became as much of a storyline as actual playing of basketball.
And the offseason is now off to a less-than-ideal start as well, especially after Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said following the playoffs that the team has to eliminate “unnecessary drama, self-inflicted decisions that take away from the team.”
“It has to be completely different going into next year,” Jenkins said.
This will be at least the third known NBA investigation surrounding Morant and the possible involvement of firearms so far in 2023.
Morant’s actions were investigated after a Jan. 29 incident in Memphis that he said led to Pack — someone Morant calls “my brother” — banned from Grizzlies’ home games for a year.
That incident followed a game against the Indiana Pacers; citing unnamed sources, The Indianapolis Star and USA Today reported that multiple members of the Pacers saw a red dot pointed at them while they were near the loading dock where their bus was located, and The Athletic reported that a Pacers security guard believed the laser was attached to a gun.
The NBA confirmed that unnamed individuals were banned from the arena but said its investigation found no evidence that anyone was threatened with a weapon.
Then came the Denver-area incident in the early hours of March 4, after the Grizzlies played a road game against the Nuggets. At 5:19 a.m., Morant started a livestream from inside a strip club called Shotgun Willies in Glendale, Colorado. No charges were filed and police said there were no complaint calls stemming from Morant holding the gun.
Morant and Pack also are involved in a civil lawsuit brought after an incident at Morant’s home last summer, in which a then-17-year-old alleged that they assaulted him. Morant filed a countersuit on April 12, accusing the teen of slander, battery and assault.