Ja Morant To Miss Two Games After Flashing Gun On Instagram Live
4:07 PM EST on March 5, 2023
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant will miss at least two games after he flashed a gun while live on Instagram from a club. In the video, which went viral over the weekend, Morant dangles a handgun in front of his face—he's holding it by the bottom of the grip—smiles, then puts it back down. There's a slight jump in the video, then the rest of it shows Morant rapping along with "Bring 'Em Out" while swinging the camera around to show his surroundings.
The Grizzlies' statement about Morant stepping away from the team, issued on Saturday, very deliberately does not use the word suspension, and does not provide further context about the decision.
Morant stepping away from the team follows several reports in which the 23-year-old Grizzlies star or those around him are accused of intimidation or physical violence. In January, TMZ reported that Morant was being sued for punching a 17-year-old during a pickup basketball game at Morant's Memphis home. Then, on Feb. 5, the Athletic reported that "acquaintances" of Morant had "aggressively confronted" Indiana Pacers employees after a game—shouting threats at them—which only ended after Morant showed up and the entire group got into an SUV. But, before leaving, the SUV passed by the Pacers' bus and, per the Athletic, "that was when members of the Pacers traveling party noticed a red laser coming from the car and being trained on players, coaches and others." The NBA investigated and said that "certain individuals involved" had been "subsequently banned from attending games in the arena."
On March 1, the Washington Post dropped a story outlining a pair of Memphis police reports, both documenting cases accusing Morant of violence. The first report is from the summer of 2022, when Morant's mother got in a disagreement with a Finish Line employee at a Memphis mall, the Post reported. In response, she called her son and he arrived with "a group of as many as nine other people," per the report. The director of mall security also arrived, and a "verbal confrontation" between the security director and the group ensued, the Post said, resulting in someone pushing the security director in the head. The group did leave, but police wrote in their report that, as this was happening, Morant said, "Let me find out what time he gets off." No arrests were made.
The second set of police reports were connected to the lawsuit first reported in January, and these provided more details about what the teenager said happened that day, which was less than a week after the mall confrontation. The 17-year-old told police that he had thought of Morant as a mentor. At one point during the game, Morant threw the ball hard at the teen as part of checking it in. The teen threw the ball back at Morant just as hard but, according to the Post, the teen told investigators that the ball "slipped through" Morant's hands and hit him in the chin.
From the Post:
The teenager told police Morant then put his chin on the boy’s shoulder and asked his friend, “Do I do it to him?” The friend responded, “Yeah, do it.”
Morant then punched the boy in his jaw, the boy told police, and without warning, the friend struck him on the other side. “I fell to the ground, trying to cover my face, so I wouldn’t get hit in the face,” the boy told police. “I got, started getting hit, punched in my head, everything else.”
“Ja hit me like 12 to 13 times,” the boy said, adding that the friend struck him four or five times. When police asked the boy how hard the punches landed, he compared them to an MMA bout.
After the men were pulled off him, the boy told police, Morant went inside and the boy got up to leave. As the boy was going to his car, he said, Morant “came outside with his gun.” It was tucked into his pants, the boy said, and though he didn’t pull it out, the boy said he saw Morant put his hand on it.
Morant's lawyers did not respond to the paper's request for comment.
Over the weekend, an NBA spokesman has said the league is investigating the Instagram video. Morant issued a statement saying he took "full responsibility for my actions last night" and he was going to "take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.” Whatever that work entails, Morant will not be broadcasting it. He also deactivated his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Diana Moskovitz is Defector's investigations editor. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or, if you prefer protonmail, email@example.com. If security is a concern, download the Signal app and send her a text at 929-251-8187.
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