Ja Morant is wrong for brandishing a gun on social media. He’s done it twice now. Morant doesn’t seem to get it. He’s acting in a self-destructive way, seemingly not caring about his career, or the possibility of throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s accurate, too. It’s also OK to worry about Morant’s mental health. And it’s right for the NBA to discipline him. It has no choice.
All of these things are true.
The situation with Morant, however, is much more layered than some people want to admit. That’s because Morant is unflinchingly and embarrassingly American in one huge way: he has an apparent gun fetish. Morant displays this fetish by brandishing his gun on social media. This makes him the same as some other athletes, ordinary citizens, and members of Congress.
Forget basketball. Ja Morant’s focus needs to be on his life, not his fame.
Morant is a high-profile version of doing this, so he will get lots of attention, but there are 400 million guns in America. We are A-gun-i-stan. One nation under guns. Indivisible from our ammo. With liberty and justice for our weapons.
And we love to pose with our guns. Take pictures with them like they are our significant others. There are thousands, if not a whole lot more, of people who do just that all the time across social media. If you do not believe this, just go look. What Morant has done is wrong but it’s also, in many ways, extremely normal and American. No, this is not a good normal. This is a grotesque one and posing with guns has nothing to do with self-defense.
With Morant, he’s not some weird dude doing something odd. It’s the opposite. He’s totally one of us.
New York Jets defensive back Sauce Gardner appeared to tweet in response to Morant’s video: “Everybody have guns bro. No need to post it on IG live lol.” Gardner deleted the tweet because there’s no real LOL’ing about this. Gardner was right about one thing, though. Everybody does have guns, bro.
This posing with guns happens across the political spectrum but some right-wing politicians have taken it to an absurd level. They put pictures of themselves carrying heavy on Christmas cards. Nothing says celebrate the birth of Jesus like holding an AK. Republicans Thomas Massie and Lauren Boebert both were in pictures with their families clinging onto automatic weapons on the cover of their version of holiday wishes. Remarkably, their own minor kids are holding these huge weapons. This is so staggeringly gross it’s difficult to imagine a parent teaching this to their young children but here we are.
Winsome Earle-Sears, the lieutenant governor of Virginia, posted a photo of herself carrying a gun.
Following a series of mass shootings, Republicans wore lapel pins shaped like assault rifles that were handed out by Republican Andrew Clyde of Georgia.
“I hear that this little pin that I’ve been giving out on the House floor has been triggering some of my Democratic colleagues,” Clyde said in a video posted on Twitter. “Well, I give it out to remind people of the Second Amendment of the Constitution and how important it is in preserving our liberties.”
Posing with weapons like they are baseball cards is problematic, even dangerous, because it minimizes the power of the gun, and the damage it can do. It shows a lack of respect for how such weapons, especially automatic ones, can take a life. Or multiple ones. Guns aren’t supposed to be glamourous.
Again, Morant is wrong, but he likely looks around, sees a nation immersed up to Uncle Sam’s brim in guns, and people in Congress doing exactly what he did (and worse), and wonders: why is so much attention on me?
The answer is because he’s a star, in a league full of them, who mostly do the right thing. You also can’t have a sports league tolerate this kind of behavior, even if the rest of the country does. In this way, we’re in the Twilight Zone, where the NBA knows the right thing to do, but a Congressperson does not. It’s so darn weird.
Morant is the big name now, the headline grabber, and that’s totally fair. It’s also right that he’s catching heat. He’s not alone though. Far from it. He is typical. Typically … American.