The National Basketball Association has levied a heavy eight game suspension without pay against Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant after a livestream of immoral conduct at a stripclub made the rounds on social media.
In a March 15 release issued by the league, the NBA said, “The discipline is in response to Morant’s live streaming of a video on March 4 in which he is holding a firearm in an intoxicated state while visiting a Denver area nightclub.”
The suspension includes the five Morant has been benched for by the Grizzlies following the scandal’s emergence. He will be available to play again as early as the March 20 matchup against the Dallas Mavericks.
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In a statement at the time, the star apologized to fans, the City of Memphis, and the team, and said he would be taking time away “to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”
But the scandal is not a simple case of a hot-headed superstar playing with a gun on social media at a nightclub.
A dark night
A March 11 article published by New York Post publicized that the event revolved around a series of March 2 Snapchats of Morant’s night at Colorado strip club, which showed the point guard sitting on a couch in a private room with a stripper in a g-string shaking her bottom near his face as the entire room was covered in cash and food.
“The whole room is full of money — it’s literally a pile. You’d need a rake,” a “club insider” the Post interviewed stated.
Two employees at the club also interviewed by the Post told the outlet Morant blew $50,000 in “tips.”
The article says Morant arrived at the joint at 1:30 a.m., just a few hours after the Grizzlies defeated the last place Rockets in Houston the evening of March 1.
The team had traveled to Denver after the victory for a March 3 game against Western Conference rivals Denver Nuggets.
“Eighty minutes after the team’s plane touched down in Denver, the Memphis hotshot slinked in through the back of the club to enter the VIP room, where he sank at least $900 to book the space for three hours, per rates on the club’s website, sources said,” the Post wrote.
The insider told the Post, “He was there to party, he wanted some girls in the room…The music was very, very gangster.”
Morant was alleged to purchase “four dancers and bottle service” in addition to “a jersey-busting spread of food that appeared to include a basket of hickory-smoked wings, two platters of chicken strips and fries, and a steak.”
But the story doesn’t end here. After the Nuggets crushed Memphis during the March 3 matchup, Morant returned to the same club where the antics continued, this time broadcasted on Instagram Live while rapping and playing with a handgun.
In the suspension notice, the NBA noted that both police and internal investigations were not able to determine that the gun belonged to or was brought into the club by Morant.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Morant’s conduct “irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous.”
But more importantly, Silver condemned the series of events as having “serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among young fans who look up to him.”
The Post published a follow up March 15 article after the suspension chronicling how Morant sat down with ESPN for an interview, where the star admitted he was wrong.
“It’s not who I am. I don’t condone any type of violence, but I’ve taken responsibility for my actions,” Morant said, further admitting “I put myself in a bad position.”
Morant, who’s still only 23-years-old and pulling in an average $10 million a year with the Grizzlies, also told ESPN that he’s come to understand his responsibility to serve as a role model.
According to Boardroom Magazine, Morant’s salary is scheduled to balloon to $33 million per year starting next year on a contract that runs until 2028 and worth more than $195 million in total.
Morant will forfeit $147,798 per game missed under the current level of his contract.
“I realized I have a lot of kids who looked up to me, even some adults, a lot of fans and I realize my past mistakes is in being a good role model. So, just got to be better in that area, be more responsible, be smarter and make better decisions,” he said.
Monkey see, monkey do
The lesson is an important one to learn since research shows the impact of professional athletes on young people is significant.
Results of a survey from August of 1999 published by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that 92 percent of kids said that superstar athletes place next to only their parents as people they admire the most.
The KFF also found that both boys and girls named professional athletes “much more frequently than other celebrity figures.”
The 23-year-old research found that although “famous athletes teach children that being a good sport and playing fair are as important as winning,” the kids all noted that stars’ actual conduct was often bad during games, such as yelling at officials, taunting and trash talking, and cheap shots.
The older the kids interviewed were, the more they noted the bad behavior.
Moreover, “When they get on the field, many young athletes are mirroring the example set by the stars,” the KFF noted, adding, “Most kids describe incidents of poor-sportsmanship as fairly routine among their peers.”
The research also found that kids who often watch sports, but don’t play sports themselves, are the most likely to accept the bad behavior they witness, “Sports junkies are more likely than kids who follow sports less closely to say it is ‘okay’ to yell at a referee or umpire (46% vs. 33%) and taunt or trash talk an opponent (35% vs. 18%).”
“These are behaviors they are also more likely to say they or the kids they know do in their own games,” the KFF added.