Nike has decided to support its youngest superstar, Ja Morant, following an Instagram live video making the rounds online. This comes months after the corporate sneaker giant cut ties with NBA star guard Kyrie Irving. In the video, Morant brandished a firearm while at a nightclub in Denver. In the hours that followed, the Memphis Grizzlies suspended Morant for two games. On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Ja Morant is suspended for eight games for conduct detrimental to the league. The suspension covers the six games he missed, including Wednesday night against The Heat. Morant left a counseling program in Florida and is eligible to play Monday against the Dallas Mavericks. To wrap up the NBA’s ongoing investigation, Morant met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on this matter. The meeting finalized the last step of the process for Morant. Commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement, saying:
“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous, it also has serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among the young fans who look up to him. He has expressed sincere regret and remorse for his behavior.”
The investigation included extensive reports that Morant was the subject of. Morant’s accusation included threatening a mall security guard and beating a teenager during a basketball game. Despite Morant’s troublesome behavior, Nike released a statement, saying:
“We appreciate Ja’s responsibility and that she is taking the time to get the help she needs. We support prioritizing their well-being.”
Nike, which has a line of signature sneakers featuring Morant, received backlash from fans for endorsing the Grizzlies star. A few months earlier, Nike ended its partnership with NBA star Kyrie Irving. Nike did not publicly endorse Irving, causing an uproar in the sports world. Several NBA players spoke out about Nike’s stance, highlighting the company’s selective morality. Still, that hasn’t stopped the corporate sneaker giant from engaging in unethical business practices. Its record of human rights violations in Asia and the diametrically opposed positions involving Morant-Irving highlight the lack of corporate leadership. Phil Knight openly expressed “Kyrie crossed the line. It’s that easy. He made some statements that we just can’t deliver, and that’s why we ended the relationship. He was fine with it.”
Nike’s hypocrisy in its inaction toward Grizzlies star Morant proves that endorsing a product in exchange for millions is more important than company values. In other words, Nike cares about millions more than ethics. Nike continues to leverage brand partnerships to maximize its ROI. The Morant case highlights the troublesome dangers corporate sneaker brands face when partnering with athletes for millions. Morant is a two-time All-Star, former Rookie of the Year and most improved player. Morant is touted as the young face of the league, and that comes with a certain sense of responsibility. As for Nike, they have doubled their investment. Morant will have to maintain a squeaky clean image for his career.