Memphis guard Ja Morant has been suspended for the first 25 games of the upcoming season for his second known incident of displaying what appeared to be a firearm on social media, the NBA announced Friday.
Morant will also have to adhere to certain conditions before being reinstated, the NBA said. It is the second time he has been suspended in the last three months for showing a firearm on social media, following an eight-game suspension in March.
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.
“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 also 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 course of his suspension.”
Morant was seen on a friend’s Instagram feed holding what appeared to be a gun last month, prompting the latest NBA investigation. Morant had already been suspended by the Grizzlies from team activities, in anticipation of the NBA sanction.
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 first eight-game suspension cost him about $669,000 in forfeited salary after the first video surfaced in March.
The second video captured May 13 and widely shared online after being streamed by a Morant associate shows the guard holding — for maybe less than a second — what appears to be a handgun as Morant sits in the passenger seat of a vehicle.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this story.
Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press