Ja Morant was suspended from the NBA for a gun video. Yet people in Congress do the same thing.
If Rep. Lauren Boebert has the right to tweet out a picture of her young children holding guns and keep her job, then why doesn’t a Black man have that right, too?
In 2018, I saw Ja Morant play for the first time when he was a student at Murray State. What I remember most was the high-flying dunks that were forceful yet graceful. More than just a dunker, Morant was the unquestioned leader and chief facilitator of his team, guiding them to the NCAA tournament round of 32.
Now the Memphis Grizzlies’ star guard, Ja Morant is under fire for brandishing a handgun on social media.
He’s been suspended by the NBA for eight games without pay.
His endorsements with Nike and Powerade could be in jeopardy.
In response, Morant said in a statement earlier this month: “I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.” In an interview with ESPN’s Jalen Rose about the video with the gun, Morant said: “I don’t condone it or any type of violence, but I take full responsibility from my actions. I made a bad mistake.” He told Rose he has entered a counseling program, as evidence he is getting help.
Morant certainly needs to be mindful, given his stature and status as a professional athlete, of the root cause of his recent actions. Whatever might be at the root of this recent behavior, I hope that Morant gets the support that he needs.
However, the cognitive dissonance apparent in discussions about Morant’s behavior is concerning and frustrating.
I am not saying that Morant’s not at fault for his decision-making. And I certainly don’t condone NBA players — or anyone else for that matter — brandishing guns on social media. But there is an important element missing from the conversation about Morant’s actions: how our society glamorizes guns — from television and film to video games, from water pistols to gun accessories for action figures.
“Our society glamorizes guns.”
We cannot critique Morant’s recent behavior with firearms without including a broader discussion about America’s obsession with guns. Our fellow Americans have purchased half the civilian-owned guns worldwide, and our gun homicide rates are 25 times higher than in other high-income nations.
The United States was established on the tenets of white settler colonialism by way of the gun, bringing about continental imperialism and enslavement. The fruits of that foundation are commemorated every July Fourth, when the wielding of firearms is celebrated as one of the “freedoms” we share.
We introduce the gun to our children through our rituals, if not by outright putting a gun in their hands. There are sitting members of Congress who in 2021 proudly tweeted out holiday pictures of them and their kids holding guns around a Christmas tree. Why did these white parents face no repercussions, while a 23-year-old Black man showing off a gun in a night club via social media is in danger of losing his career?
This is patently unfair, and racist.
Gun rights activists fight for the right to widespread use under the guise of civil rights. Well, if Rep. Lauren Boebert has the right to tweet out a picture of her young children holding guns and keep her job, then why doesn’t a Black man have that right, too?
» READ MORE: The growing ranks of Black gun owners | Jennifer Stefano
It’s because, at America’s core, there is something about a Black man — especially one with physical abilities like Ja Morant — that scares white people. It’s a fear that white and Black people alike know all too well. It’s a fear that led to the murders of Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile; it’s a fear that drives Black mothers to pray that their sons aren’t the next Trayvon Martin or Philando Castile.
It’s the fear that fuels the fake news called “Black-on-Black crime.” The myth of Black-on-Black crime lets white and Black people alike retreat to their fears to justify their feelings about Morant’s behavior. It explains why Fox Sports host Skip Bayless asked if Morant was a member of a gang. It explains why Rose relayed a message to Morant with such conviction: “I am Ja Morant,” he said. “When you start waving [a gun], that can get you killed.”
This isn’t to absolve Morant from any blame. Rather, it is to infuse this conversation with context concerning America’s gun obsession and our nation’s historic fear of Black people who are armed.
I sincerely hope that Morant gets the clarity of mind and support that he needs to return to a sense of normalcy for himself, in addition to returning to the court. I also hope that we’re honest in similar conversations moving forward, the next time real life prevents us from simply sticking to sports.
Rann Miller is an educator and freelance writer based in southern New Jersey. His Urban Education Mixtape blog supports urban educators and parents of children attending urban schools. Miller is also the author of the recently released book, “Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids.” @RealRannMiller