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Grizzlies Suspend Ja Morant After He Plays With A Handgun On Instagram Live Again

Ja Morant reacts to a call during the Grizzlies first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers on April 26, 2023.
Justin Ford/Getty Images

It is not a crime to listen to music at louder-than-advisable volume while in the car with your buddies, which is great news because that is one of the really good things a person can do in life. It is not a crime, in Tennessee, to do basically anything involving a gun short of using it to commit certain kinds of crimes. In 2021, Tennessee joined all of America's most ostentatiously free states in allowing residents to carry a loaded gun, openly or concealed, with or without a permit.

Gun rights advocates immediately sued the state in an attempt to roll back the few restrictions that remained in that law, and in February, the state brought its policies more in line with what gun rights people call "constitutional carry," and what might otherwise be mistaken for the absence of any gun-related laws at all. (The state does have some remaining restrictions where guns are concerned, although they don't work very well; the state legislature ended its session early rather than take on proposed measures to improve those laws after a school shooting in April.) In the February laws, the age limit for permitless carry was reduced from 21 to 18; guns are now permitted on college campuses and, for teachers with law enforcement experience, in classrooms. An amendment that "would have allowed law enforcement to carry their service weapons while intoxicated" was removed after the state representative that introduced it said that it was merely a placeholder included by mistake.

All of which is to say that, in Tennessee, neither bopping around while listening to NBA YoungBoy in the car with your friends nor doing basically anything with a loaded handgun is illegal. That's the letter of the law. However, if you are Memphis Grizzlies All-Star Ja Morant, waving a gun around on Instagram Live while listening to music in the car with your friends is something that you absolutely must not do. The first time Morant waved a gun on Instagram Live, back in March, he wound up being suspended for "conduct detrimental to the league." On Saturday, Morant went ahead and did it again, this time on the Instagram account of his friend Davonte Pack.

This was a very bad idea. It was a bad idea not because it is illegal to do, which it isn't, or even because it is a stupid thing to do, which it is. In Morant's case, it was inadvisable because it has been just a couple months since Morant last got in trouble for brandishing a gun on Instagram Live. The league suspended Morant for eight games and the Grizzlies mandated that Morant get some vague counseling for whatever condition it is that he has that made him threaten teenage FootAction employees and wave his pistol around in the VIP room of a suburban Denver strip club.

"That’s pretty much it for me," Morant said about appearing on Instagram Live after rejoining the team. "Obviously, I made mistakes in the past, caused a lot of negative attention not only for me, but my family and my team and the organization, and I’m completely sorry for that. So my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible and more smarter."

Where the Grizzlies had been careful about saying whether they were suspending Morant the first time he went on Instagram Live with a gun, they were more direct and prompt this time around, suspending him from team activities while the league reviews the case.

"The through-line connecting the teen-punching incident, the mall employee-threatening incident, the weird laser pointer-pointing fracas with the Pacers, and, finally, the gun-flashing fiasco is the utter lack of consideration of consequences," Patrick Redford wrote here while Morant was away from the Grizzlies back in March. "It doesn't feel like a psychoanalytical overreach to posit that one wouldn't fight or threaten people that often if one were worried about repercussions." Morant has already faced some repercussions—that eight-game suspension was without pay, and his failure to make an All-NBA team this year cost him the chance to see his upcoming five-year, $193 million extension elevate to a $231 million "supermax" one. He'll likely face some more in the days to come. During player exit interviews after Memphis's brief stay in the postseason, Morant underlined that he had "to be better with my decision-making." For now, that's something he'll have to work on away from the team.

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