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Down goes Ja, again!

Before many Memphis Grizzlies fans had even found their way to the team’s online shout-out to Mother’s Day came the mind-rattling word that star-guard Ja Morant was on suspension, again.

Couldn’t be true, shouldn’t be true, but painfully true! Morant was suspended on Sunday by the Grizzlies after briefly showing up on an Instagram clip in possession of what may be a gun.


 

 


An associate of Morant went live on Instagram while the two-time All-Star was in the front seat of a vehicle with another person, briefly appearing to display a handgun.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, “We are aware of the social media post involving Ja Morant and are in the process of gathering more information.”

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.

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.

With Morant’s incredibly bad judgment so abundantly clear and if he indeed did have a gun, there is no known evidence that he would have broken the law.

In 2021, Tennessee legalized permitless carry. Anyone 21 years or older, along with law enforcement officers and military personnel 18 or older, can openly or “conceal-carry” a handgun in public. The exceptions are in schools, public parks or government buildings. An enhanced license allows for handguns to be carried to public parks and into most other states.

While the federal government requires a background check for anyone seeking to purchase a firearm via a licensed seller, that doesn’t apply to unlicensed sellers. So-called “universal background check” laws cover all gun sales, with Tennessee not among the 16 states that have taken that advanced step.

Still, with gun violence rampant, it’s the second time in less than three months that Morant — whose star power is enormous — has shown up on an Instagram post that brings the carrying of a handgun into the topic of conversation. The first led to an eight-game NBA suspension that was handed down in March and cost Morant about $669,000 in salary.

The gun video earlier this season happened when Morant went live on his own Instagram 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 to seek help, without specifying what sort of treatment he was getting. ESPN later reported that he was getting counseling in Florida, something the team eventually confirmed but did not share any other details.

“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement in March 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.”

Morant sat down for an interview with ESPN during his suspension, taking responsibility for the Colorado 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.”

This will be at least the third known NBA investigation surrounding Morant and the possible possession of firearms so far in 2023.

Process is the road to progress for Ja Morant

Morant’s actions were investigated after a Jan. 29 incident in Memphis that he said led to a friend of his being banned from 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, 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 live stream from inside a strip club called Shotgun Willies in Glendale, Colorado. The video quickly went viral, but no charges were filed.

The Glendale Police Department said it looked into the video and found no proof that a crime was committed. Glendale is an enclave surrounded by the city of Denver.

Morant and a close friend also are involved in a civil lawsuit brought after an incident at Morant’s home last summer, in which a 17-year-old alleged that they assaulted him.

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.

(This story reflects reports by the Associated Press.)

 

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