By: Caitlin Hamilton
Whether you’re a Memphis Grizzlies fan, or curious as to why one of the current star guards in the NBA may not return for the 2023-2024 season, one can start by looking at NBA contract terminology: ‘Conduct Detrimental to the League.’
On March 15th, 2023, the NBA came out with a statement that announced Memphis Grizzlies starter, Ja Morant, would be suspended for eight games without pay for conduct detrimental to the league. In layman’s terms, conduct detrimental references when a player distracts from the team. The suspension came in response to an Instagram live post that showed Morant with a firearm at a nightclub in Glendale, Colorado on March 4th, 2023. While Colorado is an open-carry state, it is illegal to possess a firearm while under the influence of alcohol. It is not established that Morant himself was drinking but people around him were. Furthermore, section 6.9 of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, states that when a player is traveling on any NBA-related business, a player shall not possess a firearm or any other deadly weapon. Though Morant was not found to be the owner of the gun in question nor that he had a firearm at an NBA facility, Morant was in Colorado for the match-up between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets the night prior. While not legally charged, after the March 4th incident, Morant announced that he would be attending counseling. Section 6.8 of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining agreement states that when a player is believed to be engaging in violent conduct, the player will be required to undergo a clinical evaluation, and if deemed necessary, counseling will be administered. However, Morant’s eligibility for the 2023-2024 season hinges on an event that took place in mid-May of this year, when Morant was allegedly seen again flashing a firearm, this time in a car, on another Instagram live post. While this most recent event came following the controversy in Glendale, it was postseason for the Grizzlies and there was no evidence of alcohol. Hence, many fans are split as to whether or not they believe Morant should be suspended for the 2023-2024 NBA season.
Some take the position that Morant’s most recent conduct deems him unfit to represent the NBA, while others take the stance that if the weapon in question is deemed a legitimate legal firearm, then Morant is invoking his Second Amendment right to bear arms. There is the argument that Morant’s actions show a lack of remorse for the event that transpired at the Glendale nightclub. Some state that Morant’s fan base includes young children who look to Morant as a role model and that his conduct is reckless and potentially dangerous. However, others believe that if no legal matter is in violation, there shouldn’t be a correlation to eligibility, as other players have come under fire for scandals such as infidelity and the like, that didn’t result in suspension even though the behavior may be seen as ‘distracting.’
The NBA is expected to release a statement in the near future to announce whether or not Morant will be suspended, and if so, for how much of the 2023-2024 NBA season.