It was all good just a week ago

Ja Morant

It was all good just a week ago
March 16
10:02 2023

Memphis Grizzlies’ star guard Ja Morant is probably having one of the worst PR crises I can recall for any professional athlete in recent memory.  

A few weeks ago, Morant was drawn into public controversy when the NBA investigated an allegation that someone in Morant’s vehicle pointed the laser sight of a gun toward members of the Indiana Pacers organization following a game. Just about a week ago, a story was released alleging that Morant beat up a 17-year-old, along with brandishing a firearm, back in July of 2022. Forty-eight hours later, a report popped up saying Morant was suspended two games for posing with a gun in Instagram at a nightclub.

I honestly thought the most recent incident was a fake meme or something because in my mind, there was no way that article could be true. Upon further investigation, I found out that it was in fact a real report. To complicate matters even more, while finding out those incidents were true, I also read that four days prior to the incident with the teen, there was yet another situation that had previously not been reported.

According to an article I read in the Washington Post, the head of security at a Memphis mall told police that Morant “threatened” him during an altercation in the parking lot, leaving him alarmed enough to file a police report. The report also stated that a member of Morant’s group shoved the director in the head. No arrests were made, records show.

My first reaction to finding out these reports were real was complete and utter disbelief. This young man is quickly becoming one of the faces of the NBA and his popularity continues to rise daily because of his electric play, dazzling dunks and the fact his team is currently in second place in the Western Conference and have legitimate title aspirations.

Nike just released his new signature shoe, he has one of the top selling jerseys in the league and he just started a new ad campaign with Powerade, so for all of this negative press to come out is not good news for him or his brand.  

From what I have read, the incident in the Memphis mall started after Morant’s mother got into a dispute with a store employee at Finish Line and she promptly called Morant. Morant allegedly arrived shortly afterward with a large group of individuals. Morant and his crew were approached by the director of mall security and asked to leave, but they refused to leave the parking lot.  

Police arrived and a verbal altercation escalated, says the report. Allegedly, someone in the group also pushed the security director in the head. Police wrote in the report that as Morant’s group was leaving the grounds, Morant was overheard saying, “Let me find out what time he gets off.”

Police also noted that the security director wanted to file a report due to the alleged statement made by Morant and because he had been assaulted by the group member that pushed him in the head. Eventually everyone left the scene and there were no arrests made.

Now we flashback to the laser sight incident from Jan. 29. After the game, acquaintances of Morant confronted members of the Pacers near the team bus in the loading area of FedEx Forum, and later someone in the vehicle Morant and his party was traveling in pointed a red laser at the Pacers personnel.  

No one could tell if the sight was attached to a gun. A Pacer security guard remarked: “That’s 100 percent a gun.”  No one from the Pacers could see who shined the laser from the vehicle. The Pacers did alert the NBA and no police report was made because some of the parties involved feared retribution from those who confronted them in Morant’s party.

“NBA Security and league investigators conducted an investigation interviewing numerous eyewitnesses and reviewing video surveillance following allegations made by the Indiana Pacers organization regarding a postgame incident on Jan. 29. While we substantiated that a postgame situation arose that was confrontational, based on interviews and other evidence gathered, we could not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon,” said NBA league spokesperson Mike Bass. “Certain individuals involved in the postgame situation and a related matter during the game that night have been subsequently banned from attending games in the arena. If additional information becomes available related to the post-game situation, the league office will conduct a further review.”

Morant apparently complied with league investigators during the matter, but once again that was a situation that the young man did not need to be a part of. Athletes with guns in public is not a good look. If you don’t believe me, just ask Plaxico Burrus or Gilbert Arenas. 

Unfortunately for Morant, the bad news didn’t stop there.

The situation with the teenager in the pickup basketball game is just as confusing as the other incidents. Apparently this situation took place at Morant’s house. From what the young man told police, Morant repeatedly punched the teenage boy in the head and left him with a “large knot” on the side of his head. The teen goes on to say that Morant then went into his home and came back out with a gun that was visible in the waistband of his pants and his hand was on the weapon.  

Morant refuted the young man’s claims in an interview with police. Morant says he acted in self-defense after the teen threw a ball at him and stepped toward him, pulling up his pants. Morant admits to swinging first but feels the ball being thrown was the first punch. Morant also stated that as the boy left, he shouted, “I’m gonna come back and light this place up like fireworks.” No one is sure if that was in response to Morant brandishing a weapon or an unprovoked statement from the teenage boy. My issue is that Morant should not have even been in that situation to begin with. No one was charged on either side after prosecutors reviewed the case.  

Even after all of that, Morant chooses to go on Instagram live and display what appeared to be a gun at a nightclub early Saturday morning. He had to know that would immediately pique the interest of the NBA, and sure enough it did. Initially, Morant was suspended for two games, but that has now been elevated to an indefinite leave of absence for him.

Morant took full responsibility for his actions through a statement he released.

“I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire organization for letting you down,” read the statement. “I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”

The first question I have for Morant is, why? I don’t understand the need for him to appear to have this thuggish persona when he made it to the pinnacle of his sport and making millions of dollars. I am all for protecting yourself and your family, but all of these situations are ones that could have been avoided or handled by the proper individuals (security, law enforcement).

From all accounts that I have read, Morant comes from a middle-class household with both parents who were active in his life, so I am not sure where this gangster persona comes from. Even if it was present as a youth, he’s made it out of all of that and that behavior should have been left behind as well.  

Other pro athletes weighed in on the issue. Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant said this in a Twitter post: “If you know and love @JaMorant put your arms around him and tell him the truth …  Ja you got a special ability them other n!&&@$ around you don’t .. and if the n!&&@$ around you loved you … it’s no way you would be flashing that gun. I don’t care if you was to say it’s no foul play to having that gun on you live, that’s a no go! … it’s kids especially Black kids with dreams living in poverty who love basketball trying to make it out … you are special boss … f#%& that dumb $#!% … you are a role model regardless if you see it or not … your name holds weight … make peace with whatever problems you are dealing with and elevate … all love on this end.”

I agree with the overall message from Bryant, even though I would have selected some different words to use. His point is valid, however. Morant is a role model at only 23 years of age and millions of young men who look like him are looking up to him. I am sure this is not the example he wants to relay to his young fans. The fact that he has been in this many negative situations lets me know his team around him does not have his best interest at heart.  

There is no way on God’s green earth that anyone who was looking out for Morant thought any of these incidents were good ideas. Going to a mall parking lot and getting into it with the security director: bad idea. Fighting a teenager and allegedly brandishing a weapon: horrible idea. Having someone in your entourage point a laser sight at opponents’ party following a game: dangerously bad idea. I think we all know showing a gun on social media at five in the morning at a nightclub is a recipe for disaster. He must surround himself with people who will tell him no sometimes and that things like this are not a good idea. Being around just “yes men” will not end well for Morant.

Just look at LeBron James. He surrounded himself with a camp of individuals who not only wanted to see James win, but they also had aspirations of their own. Several of his teen friends have gone on to have very successful careers of their own, most notably Rich Paul, who is one of the most well-known sports agents in the business. Morant needs those types of individuals who are worried about setting up generational wealth for their families, instead of trying to be tough guys.

I would hate for this to be the downfall for this young man because he is so immensely talented. He has not reached his peak athletically or maturity-wise, so let’s just all hope that he learns from these incidents and realizes the error of his ways. He has too much going for him. Hopefully those who truly care about him will help point him in the right direction and to a better peer group.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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