Ever since the video of Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant surfaced on Sunday morning, there’s been a common theme from most sane individuals — what’s wrong with him? What is he going through?
In March, the league temporarily banned Morant from participating in games. This punishment came after he appeared in a video on Instagram Live, where he was shown holding a gun inside a strip club in Denver while the Grizzlies were on a trip. The team and the NBA were displeased with Morant’s actions and decided to suspend him for eight games without pay. It is important to note that Morant has a lucrative contract extension worth $194 million, which will take effect in the upcoming season.
After enduring the fallout from his decision two months ago, why would he do this again? There are a few reasons, and the problem is more profound than Morant simply brandishing a gun.
Everyone wonders why Morant surrounds himself with the type of friends that would record him doing things to jeopardize his career. Has anyone considered we may be getting a glimpse into who he is off the court?
Don’t get me wrong, outside of a two-minute conversation with Morant in the visitor’s locker room of the then Chesapeake Energy Arena, I don’t know him, and it’s not fair to act like I know who he is off the court. But as I observe from afar, his actions show that this is the lifestyle he craves.
If you watched the video, you’d see that Morant was in a car with his friends, listening to NBA Youngboy as many of us have done, and his friend was recording it all — which is perfectly fine. Did you notice how his friend, the person recording, swiftly put his phone down when he saw Morant flashing the firearm? That debunks the notion that his friends are setting him up (which I’ve heard).
A deeper conversation needs to be had about how the Black community keeps making excuses for the 23-year-old, almost $200M athlete, as they do, even in the local scene, for star athletes, musicians, or well-known figures.
I get it — we enjoy seeing each other win. Based on American history, the years of oppression, and the constant ridicule we receive today, seeing someone who looks like us accomplishing great things makes us happy.
I also know that Ja Morant represents a stereotype many people want to place on young black men with locs and tattoos listening to hip-hop music. So, yes, the moment Morant fulfilled that stereotype was when “those people” felt validated.
With that knowledge, we (the Black community) take care of our children, adolescents, and young adults to protect them from these things. But in many other cases, like Morant’s, there’s over-compensation.
“I don’t see the problem if the gun was registered.”
“Ja has to find some new friends. His current group is trying to keep him down.”
“If this was a white man taking a picture with a gun, would the NBA act as swiftly?”
While all three may be true, excuses are often true, but excuses are often unnecessary too. They are the tools of the incompetent, and in Morant’s situation, the Black community continuing to make excuses for him will further damage his growth as an upstanding professional and potentially ruin his luminant future.
Morant has messed up two times within two months by repeating the same thing his employer asked him not to do. The legality of him brandishing a gun isn’t as much in question. His standing with the NBA, a privately held company, a privately-owned team, and his endorsements are in question, and from the lens of the companies investing in him, I understand the frustration and uncertainty.
Morant isn’t a child, but he is a young adult that’s still learning. The issue? He is also a role model that young kids, especially young Black kids, emulate. With gun violence peaking as we speak, one of, if not the most polarizing figure in the NBA flashing guns on IG Live for children to see is undoubtedly a problem, not only to society but to his community — the Black community.