Ja Morant may have held what looked like a gun while recording an Instagram Live video at a strip club last weekend, but the Memphis Grizzlies star didn’t commit a crime.
On Wednesday, the Glendale Police Department in Colorado announced that “a prominent NBA player” will not be charged after “singing and holding what appeared to be a firearm by the butt end of a gun for several seconds.” Following a Grizzlies-Denver Nuggets game, Morant visited Shotgun Willie’s, which describes itself as “Denver Metro’s premiere and most legendary Gentleman’s club.” The police found no probable cause.
Although Colorado law permits adults to carry a licensed firearm, including in bars, that permission is forfeited when the gun holder is under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance. Such a gun holder can be charged with a class two misdemeanor and, if convicted, sentenced to up to 120 days in jail.
As Sportico explained Monday, police faced a challenge in obtaining proof that Morant was, in fact, under the influence. His blood alcohol content was presumably not measured and even if police obtained receipts or other evidence proving that Morant bought alcoholic drinks, buying drinks wouldn’t prove that he consumed drinks. It’s also unknown if Shotgun Willie’s security cameras captured any relevant video or if other patrons’ iPhones recorded Morant (or if they would want to share video with the police).
Noting that “under our justice system all persons are presumed innocent until proven otherwise,” the Glendale Police Department stressed that it “did not receive any calls for service at the nightclub regarding a weapon of any type” and that “no citizens or patrons of the club came forward to make a complaint.” The police also found relevant the absence of anyone being “threatened or menaced with the firearm” and that no firearm was actually found.
While Morant has avoided the “worst case” scenario—facing criminal prosecution—he could still face the NBA’s wrath.
In explicit and extensive language, Section 9, Article VI of the CBA prohibits players from possessing a firearm in work-related activities, including while on road trips. Players in possession of guns also have a contractual duty to share with their team proof of license and registration. Separately, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has the authority to punish a player for any “conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Association” as interpreted by Silver.
Although Morant has apologized and stepped away from the Grizzlies, the league could still decide his behavior and judgment undermine NBA business interests, including relationships with fans, sponsors and broadcast partners. The fact Morant is an NBA star might count against him, too. He is more closely followed and arguably more symbolic of the league than if he were a benchwarmer.