Silver: Morant penalty to hinge on NBA ‘standard’

DENVER — Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant not being charged with a crime for twice displaying a gun on social media will not prevent the NBA from handing down more discipline, commissioner Adam Silver said Friday.

Silver is preparing to announce whatever penalty is coming Morant’s way for the second gun incident shortly after the end of the NBA Finals. He suspended Morant for eight games in March after the Grizzlies star held a gun in a suburban Denver nightclub while streaming himself live on Instagram. Another livestream in May, this time while sharing the front seat of a car with one of his friends, saw Morant displaying a weapon again.

“Waving them around, displaying them in a certain context, is not consistent with gun safety and is not the proper message that an NBA player, particularly one at Ja’s level, should be sending to the tens of millions of followers he has — and particularly when it’s an incident once again, where it’s been streamed live on social media,” Silver said. “So yes, I think given the similarity of this incident to the first one, I was alarmed, I was disheartened.”

Police in Colorado looked into the March incident and did not file charges. Morant has also not been charged with doing anything illegal related to the May incident.

But the collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players also says players agree “not to do anything that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests” of their team or the NBA. That’s why Morant’s eight-game suspension in March was for conduct detrimental to the league, and it’s reasonable to assume that will be part of the sanctioning that Morant will face this time.

“When we have a standard for conduct detrimental, at the end of the day, it’s one based on what we see as the values of this league and what our expectations from our players in terms of the image we’re portraying to our fans,” Silver said. “So, it’s not a legal standard. It’s a private organization standard.”

Silver announced Thursday that the league and the National Basketball Players Association agree that the latest Morant penalty should not be announced during the Finals. Morant has been suspended by the Grizzlies indefinitely, and with the team obviously off until camp this fall there’s no urgency for the NBA to announce its decision.

Silver also insisted that his decision is not going to be a political one, even in a time where the topic of gun control only seems to be widening the political divide across the country.

There have been 557 mass killings in the United States since 2006, and at least 2,896 people have died, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. Those include killings where four or more died, not including the assailant, within a 24-hour period. So far in 2023, the nation has witnessed the highest number on record of mass killings and deaths to this point in a single year.

“This, to me, is an issue of gun safety,” Silver said.

This is the third known NBA investigation surrounding Morant and the possible involvement of firearms so far in 2023.

Morant’s actions were investigated after a Jan. 29 incident in Memphis that he said led to Davonte Pack — someone Morant calls “my brother” and the person who livestreamed the May incident — banned from Grizzlies home games for a year.

That incident followed a game against the Indiana Pacers. Citing unnamed sources, The Indianapolis Star and USA Today reported that multiple members of the Pacers saw a red dot pointed at them while they were near a loading dock where their bus was located, and The Athletic reported that a Pacers security guard believed the laser was attached to a gun.

The NBA confirmed that individuals it didn’t identify were banned from the arena but said its investigation into the January event found no evidence that anyone was threatened with a weapon.

Morant and Pack also are involved in a civil lawsuit brought after an incident at Morant’s home last summer, in which a then-17-year-old alleged that they assaulted him. Morant filed a countersuit on April 12, accusing the teen of slander, battery and assault.