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The NBA has suspended Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant for 25 games to start the 2023-2024 season due to conduct detrimental to the league, it was announced Friday.
The Grizzlies suspended Morant from team activities on May 14 after a video on social media circulated showing the All-Star brandishing a firearm. The NBA suspended Morant for eight games following a similar incident in March, when he was seen on Instagram Live holding up a handgun while intoxicated at a Denver-area club.
“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 in a statement. “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 suspension will come with conditions for his return, the league said.
“For Ja, basketball needs to take a back seat at this time,” Silver said in the statement. “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.”
“I’ve had time to reflect and I realize how much hurt I’ve caused,” Morant said in a statement issued Friday. “I want to apologize to the NBA, the Grizzlies, my teammates and the city of Memphis. To Adam Silver, Zach Kleiman and Robert Pera — who gave me the opportunity to be a professional athlete and have supported me — I’m sorry for the harm I’ve done. To the kids who look up to me, I’m sorry for failing you as a role model. 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.
Ja Morant will be ineligible to participate in any public league or team activities, including preseason games, during the suspension.
“I’m spending the offseason and my suspension continuing to work on my own mental health and decision making. I’m also going to be training so that I’m ready to go when I can be back on the court. I know my teammates are going to hold it down and I’m so sorry I won’t be out there with you at the beginning of the season. 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.”
The NBA’s investigation into the incident has been completed for weeks, but Silver waited until the conclusion of the NBA Finals to announce the suspension because he did not want to distract from the league’s championship series.
The NBA on Friday said Morant “wielded the firearm while knowing that he was being recorded … despite having made commitments to the NBA and public statements that he would not repeat the conduct for which he was previously disciplined.”
After the March incident, Morant enrolled in a Florida counseling facility — to learn how to manage stress better, he later said — before traveling to New York City to meet with Silver at the commissioner’s office.
Silver elected to suspend Morant for eight games without pay due to conduct detrimental to the league — a punishment that included six games the point guard had already missed — and issued a stern statement calling Morant’s conduct “irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous.”
“I think he understood that it wasn’t about his words,” Silver said during his news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “It was going to be about his future conduct.
“I guess in hindsight, I don’t know. If it had been a 12-game suspension instead of an eight-game suspension, would that have mattered? I know it seemed based on precedent, and he’s represented, and we want to be fair in terms of the league, it seemed appropriate at the time. That’s all I can say. Maybe by definition to the extent we’ve all seen the video that it appears he’s done it again, I guess you could say maybe not.”
The Instagram Live video that emerged in May came from the account of Morant’s best friend, Davonte Pack, who has been involved in several of Morant’s off-court incidents that merited investigation from the league office.
Pack was banned from attending Grizzlies home games for a year following an investigation into a postgame confrontation with the Indiana Pacers‘ traveling party on Jan. 29, when a red laser was alleged to have been pointed out of an SUV in which Morant was traveling.
Silver said during his June 1 news conference at the Finals that factors he would weigh in determining the suspension included the “history of prior acts” as well as the “individual player’s history” and the “serious of the conduct.”
Silver also said Morant not being charged with a crime would not prevent the league from handing down more discipline.
The Grizzlies issued a statement Friday saying they respect the league’s decision to suspend Ja Morant.
“Our standards as a league and team are clear,” the Grizzlies statement said, “and we expect that all team personnel will adhere to them.”
Morant’s five-year, $194 million max contract is set to begin this coming season. It could have escalated to a supermax if he had made all-NBA this season, which he did not, costing him about $39 million in future earnings.
He has endorsement deals with Nike and Powerade, though the sports drink company pulled an ad featuring him after the March video and it currently is not running.
This article was obtained via ESPN.