The NBA is Not Going to Tolerate Ja Morant’s Behavior

Yet again, Temetrius “Ja” Morant was filmed flashing a gun. One of his friends was on IG Live while in the car with Ja, they were bumping some music, the friend panned the camera over to Ja who had pulled out his gun and was showing it off. The friend quickly yanked the camera away after he saw what Ja was doing, but it was too late. All the people who were screen recording the IG Live could easily go back and clip the 1-second part where you could see Ja with the gun.

This is on the heels of Ja getting suspended 8 games for similar behavior while in a strip club–and actually worse behavior when we consider him beating up that kid in the pickup game, the Indiana Pacers incident, and the Mall incident.

Ja went to some sort of “treatment facility” in Florida the other month, and we were supposed to believe he was magically “cured” after like 12 days. Cured of what? Unclear.

But clearly he’s not been cured of… whatever it was that was causing him to behave so erratically.

Because he’s still behaving erratically.

I personally don’t really care too much about Ja flashing these guns and acting like an idiot. I actually gained some respect for him after his performance in the playoffs against the Lakers. He used to be my least favorite player in the league, but I actually gained a bit of respect for him for–unlike Dillon Brooks–standing up there at the podium and facing the music after they lost.

The one angle of this “flashing guns” thing that doesn’t sit right with me is that he just looks like a childish teenager here. It looks as if he just doesn’t get it–he doesn’t understand that he is supposed to be acting like a grown man, a face of a franchise who is worth many hundreds of millions of dollars–not to himself, but to his employer.

I question his judgement, his maturity, and his decision-making. I wonder how it is that a kid from the middle class who is now rich, famous and playing in the NBA wants to LARP as if he’s poor, from the ghetto and has really no way up the societal ladder other than gang-banging and trying to blow up on social media due to his extravagant and envelope-pushing image.

To be honest, when I see Ja acting like this, I understand now why car insurance rates for guys only start dropping at age 25. I understand now what people mean when they say the male brain is not fully developed until 25. Ja is only 23, turning 24 in August.

But it’s not as if I am, like, aghast at his behavior, the way most of the sports media is. Ja is acting like a stupid, misguided teenager who has picked the wrong role models. You roll your eyes and hope he sees the light one day. Chalk it up to being young and dumb, you know?

It’s not like it’s affected his play on the court.

Does it give me serious concerns about how he’s raising his daughter? Yeah, absolutely. If you have a child, you should not just be out hanging out with your buddies listening to music and flashing guns in the car on IG live (in other words, behaving like a troubled high schooler). You should be changing diapers, teaching your kid to walk, going to the zoo, etc.–you, know, Dad Stuff. But, you know, it’s not my daughter, and I don’t know Ja personally, so it’s really not my problem or any of my business.

There are people out there who are defending Ja’s actions, saying he’s got Second Amendment rights, other people take pictures with guns all the time, etc.

But here’s the issue with that–and here’s the larger issue for Ja Morant that he just does not seem to understand: he is making the NBA look bad.

And that is not going to be tolerated at all.

The NBA doesn’t care about his Second Amendment Rights. If Ja is going to play in the NBA, he is subject to the NBA’s rules.

The Second Amendment protects your gun rights from the government. It does not mean you are exempt from your employer’s policies on guns.

Here’s the real crux of the matter, and it’s something Ja Morant needs to understand: the NBA has worked very hard over the years to clean up its image, and Ja Morant is jeopardizing all of it.

The NBA is not going to let Ja Morant define the league. They will isolate and remove him if he keeps causing problems for the NBA like this. They are not going to let him portray the NBA as a league full of thugs and hoodrats and lowlifes.

The NBA has already gone through that process, and they’re not going through it again. If Ja continues this behavior, and he continues to be the one bad apple on the NBA tree, they will saw that branch right off and not think twice about it.

Let me go over a little history lesson on the NBA to explain what I’m talking about here.

After Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1998, the NBA needed a new guy to become the face of the league. It was kind of a power vacuum situation because Jordan had been the face of the league for the past decade. Eventually it became LeBron, but that was not until about 2006 or 2007.

In the years following Jordan’s retirement, and until LeBron’s full ascendance to Face of the League Status, the NBA was looking for a guy to continue building and growing the league’s popularity, as Jordan did in the 1990s, and as Magic and Bird did in the 1980s.

While Michael Jordan certainly had his dark side and was no saint at all, he was a good public figurehead. He was telegenic, photogenic, great in front of the cameras, great with reporters, extremely marketable, had mainstream appeal–he was perfect.

His Q-Rating was through the roof–the general American public loved him. Worshipped him, even. He took the NBA to another level in terms of popularity and mainstream appeal.

But without Michael Jordan, the league was looking for a new face–someone who could carry the torch into the 21st century.

You had a lot of younger guys at the time in the late 1990s–there was obviously Shaq, Tim Duncan, Kobe was super young, Vince Carter, T-Mac, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, etc.

It wasn’t long after Jordan retired that the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe were dominating the league and three-peating just like the Bulls did.

Shaq was probably the league’s most famous and popular player at that point. At least that’s the way I remember it as a kid–after Michael Jordan, Shaq was the most famous NBA player. He was the next “larger than life” guy.

And Shaq was great as the face of the NBA. He still to this day is one of the most beloved and marketable NBA personalities, people know him far and wide. It wasn’t a “I Want to be like Mike!” situation, because nobody could ever be like Shaq, but he just had this larger than life persona and he was an excellent face for the league. People were in awe of him.

But there was another player who was gaining popularity, and he was definitely not what the NBA wanted to promote as the face of the league.

It was Allen Iverson: corn-rowed, gaudy chains and jewelry, controversial past, had an edge to him, tattooed, baggy clothes, sideways or backwards hat, and probably the one guy who really bridged the gap between the NBA and the rap music scene.

Allen Iverson refused to fall in line. He refused to play by David Stern and the league’s rules. He didn’t get along with his coaches most of the time. He was defiant, rebellious and marched to the beat of his own drum. He dressed how he wanted and he acted how he wanted, not how other people wanted him to.

On the court, he was one of the first guys to rock the headband while playing. It was all part of his image–part of the Iverson mystique.

Michael Eric Dyson described Allen Iverson as “Tupac Shakur with a jump shot.”

David Stern didn’t like what Allen Iverson represented. Although Iverson was enormously popular, almost a cult icon figure, Stern felt Iverson was projecting the wrong image for the league.

The NBA is corporate America, at the end of the day.

The NBA is trying to appeal to the widest possible audience.

It’s a simple numbers thing: there are a heck of a lot more white people in this country than there are black people, and the NBA does not want to risk alienating its white fans.

The league fears that if the general public perceives the league to be too “ghetto” or “thuggish or just plain too “black” then the league stands to lose a lot of money.

David Stern was not a racist, but he did not like the direction Allen Iverson was taking the league in–he did not like the image Iverson portrayed, and that image rubbed off onto the NBA writ large.

It was not all because of Iverson, but the NBA went into some tough times in the 2000s. There was the Malice at the Palace Brawl in 2004, there was the Gilbert Arenas/Javaris Crittendon gun incident in 2009. Shit, there was also the Kobe Bryant rape scandal. Jason Kidd was no saint back in the day, there was a big brawl between the Knicks and Heat in, I believe, 1999.

There were a lot of players getting arrested, and the league in general was starting to be seen as too thuggish and too closely associated, stylistically, with rap music.

And that was seen as a threat to the league’s image.

David Stern enacted a strict dress code in 2005. This was directly targeting the emergence of “gangsta rap culture” and aesthetic in the NBA, which mainly traces back to Iverson:

Here’s a quote from the article describing the dress code:

“As evident from over 20 players between 2000 and 2005 (including Shaq, Kobe, and Allen Iverson) getting hit with a $10,000 fine for wearing baggy shorts, the Commish wasn’t fond of wearing XXL when you are 5’11” and less than 180 pounds.

As evident from David Stern calling Allen Iverson’s rap song “40 Bars” “offensive and anti-social” and saying he [Stern] has “the power to disqualify players who engage in offensive conduct — including inappropriate speech,” he wasn’t too fond of Biggie and Pac and had no issue punishing players who wanted to be like them. But neither of those things was the straw that broke the Commissioner’s back. According to the Washington Post, the catalyst was a Team USA dinner in 2004 [at the Olympics].

While the Serbian national team wore matching sports jackets, many of the NBA players arrived in an assortment of sweat suits, oversize jeans, diamond earrings, and platinum chains.

Larry Brown, the coach, was said to have been so embarrassed he considered sending some of the worst dressed players back to their hotel.

Brown wasn’t the only coach embarrassed by the way players were dressing. Bulls coach Phil Jackson told ESPN, “The players have been dressing in prison garb the last five or six years. All the stuff that goes on, it’s like gangster, thuggery stuff. It’s time. It’s been time to do that. ”

The NBA really worked to clean up its image in the mid-late 2000s. And the league was successful.

David Stern was just not going to tolerate the league being perceived as ghetto and thuggish.

He wanted mass appeal–he wanted for everyone in America to feel like the NBA is “for them.”

He did not want people to feel like the NBA was a product only for black people. He wanted the NBA to be a product for everyone: white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, gay, straight, male, female, etc.

All businesses are trying to appeal to as wide a market as possible, because that’s how you make the most money.

No corporate interest wants to narrow its commercial appeal.

If you ever felt like American culture is starting to feel more sanitized, whitewashed and bland, it’s because it’s by design. Corporations seeking mass appeal are more or less simply trying to not offend anyone, so they play it safe with just about everything. The goal is mainly to be inoffensive and neutral so as to not alienate potential customers. Showing too much personality risks offending someone.

This is what Corporate America is all about: appeal to the widest possible audience/market so we can make the most money possible.

So how does this tie back to Ja Morant?

Because he threatens to undo all of this work that the league has done to increase its mass appeal, flashing his guns and listening to NBA YoungBoy on his livestreams.

He’s giving the NBA a thuggish/ghetto image once again.

And the league is not going to allow that to happen.

Adam Silver may be a more lenient, more player-friendly commissioner than David Stern was, but Adam Silver was David Stern’s deputy commissioner for nearly a decade prior to taking over in 2014. Silver has been working for the NBA in various roles since 1992.

He knows the struggles that Silver went through to rehabilitate and protect the league’s image.

He knows how important the league’s image is–specifically, he knows how important it is that the league not be viewed as ghetto or thuggish or “too black.”

The league already had a big miscalculation by whole-heartedly endorsing Black Lives Matter in 2020, which really alienated a lot of fans.

The league is not going to do anything like that again.

Ja Morant is not going to ruin the league’s image. The league simply won’t allow it.

The NBA likes squeaky-clean family men like LeBron James and Steph Curry. And Giannis, too, it seems.

You will never seen LeBron, Steph or Giannis flashing a gun. You will never see them doing anything that puts the league’s public image in jeopardy.

The NBA, I think it’s safe to say, had as of last year tabbed Ja Morant as one of its brightest young stars and future faces of the league.

Him, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Luka–and I think Zion as well, but injuries have derailed that.

I don’t think Ja is part of those plans anymore.

And it’s going to cost him a lot of money.

You get paid the big bucks not just because you’re good at basketball, but because you generate a lot of money for the league. That’s the bottom line above all else. Are you a marketable star? Do you put butts in seats? Do you garner large television audiences for your games?

That’s how the league makes money, so that’s how the players ultimately make money.

But Ja is losing his mass appeal. Sure, he will have his staunch supporters who will grow even more vociferous in their defenses of him, but they are but a vocal minority.

The reason the league and the Memphis Grizzlies and even the NBA media (which, at the end of the day, has a shared financial interest with the NBA itself) are freaking out about Ja Morant is because he threatens their bottom line.

He’s already done irreparable harm to his own public image–it’s hard to erase the perception that you are a miscreant and a thug.

Now the Powers that Be are concerned that Ja is going to tarnish their reputation as well. Their #1 priority is that the NBA does not gain the thuggish image with Ja Morant through guilt by association.

At first, they were understanding with Ja. “Hey, he’s just a dumb young kid who doesn’t know any better. Boys will be boys!” Then they were a bit more firm with him, “Ja, we’re suspending you 8 games and ordering you go get yourself some help.”


They are not going to be so understanding.

This is like strike #4, maybe more than that.

This is the time where they’re going to take a much harsher and less forgiving tone: “Listen up, Ja: we have tried to be lenient and understanding with you but it’s clear you haven’t learned your lesson at all.”

I think Ja Morant is going to be suspended for a long-ass time. Maybe even half the season next year. It could even be more than that.

They already left him off the All NBA team. You know that costs him money, right? You can only get a supermax extension if you make a certain number of All NBA teams. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Ja did not qualify for any of the All NBA teams. Whether it’s because the media deliberately left him off, or because the amount of games he missed disqualified him, the fact is that his behavior and all the trouble he’s been in has directly cost him millions of dollars.

And that doesn’t even include all the endorsements and sponsorships he’s poised to lose.

I don’t know if Ja will get another chance after this. I think he may have permanently fumbled the bag here in terms of being the face of the league, endorsements, etc.

I know he hasn’t hurt anybody (yet), and he’s only 23, but the NBA does not play around when it comes to its public image. Because that directly affects the bottom line.

Ja is threatening the bottom line of the NBA–meaning the 30 team owners who Adam Silver works for–as well as the bottom line of the television partners and all the other corporate sponsors and partners of the league. He’s indirectly threatening the bottom line of his peers, too.

Think about it: if the NBA becomes less popular, then eventually the TV deals will shrink, and so will the team payrolls.

Ja is putting all of this at stake. He is threatening the financial interests of a lot of people–a lot of rich and powerful people.

He’s going to get a hefty suspension. When we finally see how long the suspension is for, I have a feeling we will be shocked.

It will seem excessive, it will seem overly harsh and people will come to Ja’s defense.

But the powerful and rich people who both run the league or have mutually beneficial financial interests with the NBA–they are not going to tolerate this. They are going to send a message here.

They are going to make sure Ja understands what happens when you step out of line.

They are going to make sure Ja understands exactly how this NBA business works: see, Ja probably is still under the impression that the players have all the power. He figures all the old, rich white guys are just making money off the players, and they need the players more than the players need them.

But as many athletes have found out over the years, there is no single athlete bigger than the league.

The NFL is all about this. Antonio Brown tried to buck the system, and guess what? The system bucked him. If you don’t play by the rules, they will cut you out of the league and not think twice about it.

The NFL, and the NBA, are bigger than any one player. Once a player starts getting the idea that he can do whatever he wants, and that he doesn’t have to listen to anyone or play by anyone else’s rules, that’s when the Powers that Be lay down the law and remind everybody who’s boss.

They are going to send a loud and clear message to Ja Morant: “You work for us. You play by our rules. And if you don’t, you’re outta here, bud.”

To bring this back to the whole “Well Ja Morant wasn’t breaking any laws!” point from earlier–it’s irrelevant whether or not he was breaking the law.

The NBA Commissioner has the power to basically levy any sort of punishment he wants for any reason he wants. There’s a clause in the league rules called “Conduct detrimental.” Teams have this clause as well–they can suspend or fine players for “Conduct detrimental to the team.”

Similarly, the Commissioner can suspend or fine a player for “Conduct detrimental to the league.”

It’s a catch-all term, and basically it grants the Commissioner significant power and leeway to enact disciplinary measures whenever and however he sees fit.

Guess who defines “Conduct detrimental to the league”?

The Commissioner himself. He’s judge, jury and executioner here.

So nobody can bitch about how there’s no clear definition for “Conduct detrimental to the league.” The Commissioner can just say, “I decide what the definition is. If I think the way you’re conducting yourself is detrimental to the league, then my word is final.”

I have no doubt that, in the Commissioner’s eyes, he views Ja Morant’s recent behavior as detrimental to the league, and that he will enact disciplinary measures accordingly.

Even worse for Ja, he’s already been suspended once. He promised he would get his act together, that he would put his best foot forward, and I’m sure he told the Commissioner he’d learned his lesson.

Now that he’s proven that isn’t the case, I don’t expect Adam Silver to show much leniency or mercy.

You give a guy multiple chances to clean his act up, and if he doesn’t, the hammer will come down.

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