Jun 02, 2023
Adam Silver Will Suspend Ja Morant Big And Here Is Why
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 03: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 03: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrates his shot in the ... [+] second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Adam Silver has hinted to the press during the NBA Finals that the investigation involving Ja Morant's second gun waiving incident had concluded and that disciplinary action would be taken following the conclusion of the NBA Finals so as not to distract. Everyone is wondering what that punishment will be. Full disclosure, I know many executives at the NBA but have not had discussed this with any of them and my opinion about the impending Ja Morant punishment is based upon my own knowledge of NBA history and the public information that has been shared about the current Ja Morant situation.
The NBA has always been very protective of the public perception its players dating back to David Stern's obsession with the image of NBA athletes and ensuring they were viewed by the public as admired ambassadors of the league. Prohibiting violence on and off the court has always been a focus of the NBA. Stern was faced with some serious challenges dating back to the famous "The Malice at the Palace" where On November 19, 2004, a brawl broke out between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons during a game that ended up with players attacking fans in the stands. The brawl resulted in 10 players being suspended for a combined 146 games.
Soon after that, David Stern instituted a dress code for the players in order to quell any public perception that NBA players were "thugs" and the NBA went to great lengths to position its athletes as giving back to the community through NBA Cares. In all, the leagues policies have been highly effective and NBA players enjoy a very positive public image as well spoken, professional, and continually giving back.
When it comes to its players carrying guns, the NBA has taken a very strong position. The most glaring incident occurred in 2009 when Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas brought guns into the team's locker room after an altercation with a teammate. The NBA investigated the incident and suspended Arenas for the entire 2009-10 season. He was also fined $50,000 and had to attend anger management classes. This was not Arenas' first instance involving firearms. In 2004, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in Maryland. Arenas had never been suspended by the NBA before the 2009-10 season. He was a four-time All-Star and was considered one of the best players in the NBA at the time of the incident.
All of this happened during Stern's reign as Commissioner and he ruled with an iron fist. He viewed himself as the "benevolent despot" in Plato's "The Republic" dictating policy to owners and players that he thought was for the greater good. Since then times have changed and the balance of power has shifted more in favor of the players. Commissioner Adam Silver's style is a far different, anchored more in consensus building, taking into consideration the opinion of others not the least of which is the NBA players association. However, the recent increase in gun violence makes carrying or brandishing a gun in public something Silver and the NBA is very serious about discouraging and preventing. This makes it quite difficult to just to brush aside Morant's two gun toting incidents.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talks to the media and will soon hand down Ja Moran'ts punishment. ... [+] (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
When you think about the length of his impending suspension, here's what plays in Morant's favor. I’m not sure he even violated NBA rules because the season is over, he wasn't traveling with the team, wasn't on NBA business and was in a private vehicle. The applicable NBA Player Code of Conduct rule is as follows:
Section 6.9 states: "Whenever a player is physically present at a facility or venue owned, operated, or being used by a Team TISI , the NBA, or any League-related entity, and whenever a player is traveling on any NBA-related business, whether on behalf of the player's Team, the NBA, or any League-related entity, such player shall not possess a firearm of any kind or any other deadly weapon."
It is a stretch to say Morant was "traveling on NBA-related business" so technically he did not violate Section 6.9. He wasn't threatening violence and appeared to "acting" as opposed to putting anyone in danger or in fear of their life. Adam Silver recently said in reference to Morant's conduct:
"He seems to be a fine young man, in terms of my dealings with him. I think he's clearly made some mistakes, but he's young and I’m hoping now, once we conclude,at the end of our process what the appropriate discipline is, that it's not just about the discipline. It's about now what we, the players association, his team and the people around him are going to do to create better circumstances going forward. That's ultimately what's most important here."
Moreover, Morant is simply put a remarkable talent and one of the NBA's most electrifying, talented and popular players. It is in the leagues best interest to craft a punishment designed to rehabilitate him and get him back on the court as soon as possible.
What works against Morant is that it is clearly against league policy to brandish a firearm and Morant had been disciplined already for doing precisely what he just did again: so it is a second offense in the eyes of the NBA. As Adam Silver said:
"We look at both the history of prior acts, but then we look at the individual player's history as well, and the seriousness, of course, of the conduct... It comes down to judgment at the end of the day on the part of me and my colleagues in the league office."
If it were David Stern, this second offense would get Morant suspended for at least half or perhaps even a full season but under Silver's leadership I’m not so sure Morant's suspension will be that severe. However, as a result of the recent mass shootings and high sensitivity to gun violence, Morant certainly won't get off easy.
I would guess that the punishment for Morant will be around but not more than 20 games (over triple his last suspension). That would amount to roughly $4.62 million in fines based upon the NBA's 1/145th of Morant's $33,500,000 salary. I expect he will be have mandatory rehabilitation requirements (counseling including alcohol and drug rehab; anger management, etc.) because as Silver says, he needs "better circumstances" going forward. The rehabilitation may be key here since because people often make bad decisions when under the influence. So $4.62 million plus mandatory rehab is actually a pretty stiff penalty.
Bottom line, Morant is an extraordinary talent and one of the most popular players in the NBA and the NBA has a massive incentive to figure out how to get him back on track without destroying him. He will get a significant suspension but not one that will derail his career.