Those arguing the NBA shouldn't discipline Ja Morant are flat-out wrong

The argument that the NBA lacks the right to discipline Ja Morant for flashing a firearm in an Instagram Live video due to the Second Amendment and the fact Morant broke no law is so ridiculous that those making it must be acting with purposeful duplicity.

“Those guys are just, they're just freaking idiots,” Charles Barkley said Wednesday on TNT of the Morant defenders in the media. “I only say 'freaking' because y'all won’t let me say what I want to say.”

They probably aren’t idiots. They are just choosing, for whatever reason, to ignore the obvious.

To recap, the Memphis Grizzlies indefinitely suspended Morant after he recently appeared in a social media video waving a firearm. This came just over two months after the Memphis star was suspended eight games for previously being filmed with a gun in a Denver strip club.

The NBA is free to prohibit such actions under the rules of Morant’s contract and a conduct-detrimental-to-the-league clause in the collective bargaining agreement it has with the players union.

The league has other specific rules that apply to guns, notably no firearms in locker rooms, team facilities, planes and on other occasions.

The question is: Should it do these things? Well, the NBA legally negotiated the right to make that decision.

Start with this: The Second Amendment protects a citizen from government action. Neither the Grizzlies nor the NBA is the government, so this is a completely moot point.

The NBA isn’t saying the 23-year-old can’t own a gun. It isn’t even saying he can’t brandish it. It just doesn’t want him doing it on a publicly available video. It’s a significant difference.

The NBA does not want to be associated with gun culture. Players are the face of the league, frontmen for the entire multibillion dollar enterprise. Morant is one of the most prominent of them, an electric athlete who draws in television viewers and ticket holders every time he takes the court.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) brings the ball up court during the first half of Game 5 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
It is expected that Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant will face some serious disciplinary action from the NBA. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Perhaps to some, a player waving a gun on social media has no impact on their interest and support of the league. It stands to reason there are others who would be even more drawn to the NBA by such actions.

The league, however, believes the opposite, that this is the kind of behavior and message that turns off customers and sponsors. Gun-waving players, it presumably believes, are bad for business. There is also an interest in not contributing to the impact on society as a whole that continues to deal with gun violence.

Again, that’s the NBA’s choice.

It sets all sorts of standards and policies in an effort to appeal to as many customers as it can. There is a player dress code, although that has been considerably relaxed in recent seasons. There are mandated media obligations. There are conduct guidelines on and off the court that goes beyond the legal standard, most notably with sports wagering.

This is no different than many professions. Some require uniforms and others don’t. Some make employees follow scripts and protocols, some don’t.

There are the laws of society and the rules of the job. Sometimes the rules of the job are so obvious, they even become the law. Most people, for example, can have a drink within eight hours of the start of work. Airline pilots can’t, per the FAA. Anyone arguing with that?

Playing in the NBA is a privilege, one for Morant that comes with a $194 million contract that kicks in next season. That salary was built not merely on his individual talent, but decades of business practices that made the league one of the most popular and profitable in the world.

“Man, when you’re making $100 million a year to play sports, your life changes,” Barkley said. “There are certain rules and regulations you have to live by, plain and simple. You can’t do stupid stuff. That’s the trade-off. Now, if you want to do all that stuff and give the money back, more power to you.”

Indeed, Morant is free to quit and take up a profession that doesn't care about his IG account.

Some have pointed out that members of Congress and other elected officials regularly pose with firearms, even with their children. Why should Morant, just a basketball player, have to live to a “higher” standard than a lawmaker?

Well, because the NBA is a business and Congress isn’t. Politicians are trying to appeal to a small segment of the population, usually gerrymandered into a homogenous group. If such an act wasn’t popular with their constituents, they wouldn’t do it. Having other people from other areas condemn their action is actually a political strength and an additional part of the strategy.

The approval rating for Congress is dreadful. The NBA would go out of business if just a small sliver of the populace approved of it.

And in all actuality, Morant is more influential than almost all politicians. Millions look up to Morant. Few can name more than a handful of U.S. Representatives. Besides, the majority of lawmakers of any political persuasion can easily and quickly be interchanged with another candidate of the same party who would vote the exact same way. There aren’t many Ja’s out there.

The two simply have nothing in common. It’s almost too mindless to even have to explain.

The NBA doesn’t want to be involved with guns. That’s basically it. The players, via their union, have agreed to give the NBA the power to make that judgment and the disciplinary system to enforce it.

Morant got suspended once and didn’t change his behavior. A second one, longer this time, is coming.

No one’s rights are being violated here, although the intelligence of everyone having to listen to those Barkley has defined as “idiots” is certainly being insulted.