This Restorative Justice Life

Was Ja Morant's Suspension Restorative? [Restorative Justice Reflections]

March 21, 2023 David Ryan Castro-Harris
This Restorative Justice Life
Was Ja Morant's Suspension Restorative? [Restorative Justice Reflections]
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Welcome back to Restorative Justice Reflections, the show where we take time to analyze what's happening in media, news, sports pop culture, and ask restorative questions to help us make sense of it all.

I'm your host, David Ryan Barcega Castro Harris. And today I'm here with d w McRaven to discuss one of the things that's been at the center of the sports world, the suspension of John Moran as a result of gun possession and other things. Dw, how's it going? It was good. It was good. Homie, how you doing? I am well.

In transparency. We have just spent the last hour and a half talking to each other about all the things that have been going on in DWS life and their restorative justice work. We're gonna air that full conversation on Thursday, but D W and I connected a while ago, but they resurfaced on Instagram, TikTok as the restorative homey sharing restorative perspectives on different things that are going on in the world.

And as a basketball fan your perspectives on what was going on with John Morant and not so much that situation, but the responses from people in the NBA and the media. Were really energizing for me. I was like, yeah, we gotta have this conversation . So as a recap John Morant, for those of you who are uninitiated, is the point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies of the nba.

at this point two or three weeks ago he was in a strip club in Denver and decided to go on Instagram live. And during that video he flashed a handgun. The next day the sports media world was Twitter was up in arms . Right. And pretty quickly Jah put out a statement saying that he was taking time away from the team.

The Memphis Grizzlies expressed similar sentiments and opinions started glowing. Dw Yeah. When you saw this happen what was your reaction? 

Well, okay, I, most of, a lot of the information I sit with it, you know, but I thought to myself, , I really hope that people, don't head in the demonization.

Mm-hmm. space. Mm-hmm. , right? Because in athletics specifically, it's just ath athletic culture. It has a, we have this blame thing. Someone has to be held responsible. Accountability. Someone has to be held accountable to this, but rather peel back the layers and think about, as we were talking before, what does accountability look like?

Right? And what does this culture look like? Not an isolated incident, which I said on ig, if it's not an isolated incident, how do we look at ourselves as leaders? , I guess. Yeah. 

You know, and so when we think about a restorative process, thinking about the what happened, what was going on before what was going on underneath the surface for folks who was impacted and how, and like what needs to be done in order to make things right.

I think that might be a helpful framework for us to talk through some of these things. As you were saying, like this is not an isolated incident. What did you mean by that? What I mean is that even when you go and you watch Jay Williams or Jaylen Rose talk about this, , it's happened before. There's not the first time this, there's been guns in the league.

Mm-hmm. , it's, you know, this person happens to be a huge superstar. Right. But it is not the first time that situations have gone down. It won't be the last time. So this tells me that in leadership, if we're thinking about Restorative leadership, that there's something that's happening that needs. . Mm-hmm.

there's something that's happening in the culture that needs to be shifted because we may not know people the way we think we know people, because if we do, then we know that there's some sort of shift that needs to be happening. Right? So just even thinking about that, even thinking that you're having these people coming from certain communities and you have these expectations for them, and they get on this main stage, whether it be in the W N B A, whether it be in the nba.

whether it be an N, NCAA A, because the N I L deal and people getting paid now an NCAA shout out to, to getting paid. But thinking about how do you frame this thing, having these people come from environments where they're, they have nothing that have been deeply affected by caste systems, and then you're asking them to step into these very rich environments in terms of like monetarily and then behave in these culturally constricted ways in which they don't do that.

Where they come from. . Yeah, I mean, I think it's, it's, it's a couple things, right? When I think about a restorative process, thinking about like maybe an iceberg, what's on top of the surfaces, like behaviors that you see. So like, you know, Ja Morant flashes a gun on Instagram live. There also been incidents of him allegedly, right?

Showing up and instigating. Violence or commotion whether at the behest of his mom, sister, or, you know, Right. His personal honor being challenged by a 17 year old child. Right. You know, we have like all of these incidents on the top and what's under the surface for him is like probably some idea of masculinity that is not conducive to the way that you and I want to move in the world.

Right. But also like, Around that iceberg, right? The water that surrounds it. Are these things that you're talking about, like this culture of of guns and like the way that people's bodies, black people's bodies have been commodified into Products for, you know, multi-billion dollar corporations Yes.

To profit off of. And so when we're thinking about, you know, Jah and all the pressures that are like put on him in these situations, right? Like we can have sympathy for a person who is under a tremendous amount of stress while still disagreeing with like the ways that he's choosing to release that stress, right?

Or express anger. , you know, the behaviors that led to right. All, all of this and you know, still acknowledge that like there's a person there who. needs love support, which you know, is so much of what we talked about in our conversation that's going to air Thursday. There was like a difference in the way that this incident was talked about versus many things that have happened in the past.

Thinking about Gilbert's arenas back in the day, or Steven Jackson and Jamal Tinsley, or even Alan Iverson, although those weren't necessarily having to do with guns. And I think because there are so many more black media, There has been like a lot more of a sympathetic or understanding yeah.

Perspective that has been expressed publicly. And of course there have been like people who are going down that demonization around, those aren't the Twitter spheres that like I was trafficking in. But the other thing that I was seeing like the, the demonization the sympathy and understanding and challenge to like, be better and don't lose your opportunity.

There was also this undercurrent. Hey, you made it like why are you trying to be a gangster ? Right, right. And, and, and me thinking about that, I was like, yo, these are whole ass human beings. Mm-hmm. , you're asking someone to not be themselves. Mm-hmm. , like, can you imagine we were even talking about, when we were talking about misgendering people what I'm saying is that people, you have people not being able to be human. Mm-hmm. , right. And then not being able to, come into spaces with their entire humanity knowing that we're built for quote unquote mistakes. Mm-hmm. , like we're, we're built to be in process.

So when someone comes into a space and you have this expectation, it's just, it can be overwhelming to have to shift everything that you know about the world. When you know, every day you're taught that green lights you go through, you go through green lights every single day for, I don't know, I don't know how old Ja is, what, 2220.

23 years, you're going through green lights, and then one day someone says, actually, you're gonna stop at this green light. I can't imagine what kind of, how the world would be blown up for you to be thinking about that and saying like, you have to do this thing. There's no easing your way into it. There's no way you can talk about it.

That kind of piece. And so when I'm thinking about framing someone's humanity, when you move into these situations, it's like, how do we pay attention to all of the different circumstances that may have occurred or happening in this moment that led up to this piece, this one thing, and then how do you hold that space and say, like you said, it's not an isolated.

what are all these other things that happened and how come we didn't have agreements up until that point? Mm-hmm. , right? To be able to question those thoughts of why is it just this person that has this issue? It doesn't absolve them of what's happening, but how do we look at the other pieces that come into play?

Because it's never just one entity. . Yeah. And when we're talking about, you know, the commodification of people's bodies and their, and you know, when we're all participating in capitalism, all of our employers are commodifying, like our time and labor, you know, Ja Morant specifically, and NBA superstars as a whole Right.

Are seen more than just. The stats that you can produce on a basketball court, right? That's important. But you know, the marketing of the game, so people tune in to watch the marketing of the game so people come and attend the game. You know, all the marketing deals that individuals might have to endorse.

Brands, right? You know, the perspectives that each of those entities, each of those corporate entities are asking these young men to take on is a lot. And there's not always this care for the whole person built into that process. And so when things like this happen in past circumstances, right, past circumstances, right there might have.

Immediate suspension or immediate long-term suspension, right? Mm-hmm. , there might have been contracts revoked in this instance, right? The messaging that came out pretty much across the board is like, Hey, we stand by Jah and we're taking this time. He's taking this time to get help. Right. And you know, the, as of this airing, he is due to come back from what was an eight game suspension after spending some time away going down to a counseling center in Florida.

And, you know, having conversations with team and league administrators about, you know, the progress that he's made and steps that he's gonna take going forward and making a public apology. All of those things have happened and, you know, the way that he's going to continue to live up to those agreements that he's made with people remains to be seen.

But as you've witnessed all of this, like what do you hope that people learn from this? Because like, you know, I should have said at the beginning, you and I do not know the ins and outs of John Moran's life or the lives of the people going like who are employees of the Memphis Grizzlies or all that.

And so like everything that we're saying is observation from the information available to us. And if we're wrong about things we own that. We have limited perspective on this. Given the information that we have, what do you hope that people learn from what's happened? With this restorative lens?

I think about how shifting from take the person out of the situation and there's no more problem. Hmm. Or that person that's the bad apple. Like this theory that there's bad apples. When rather there's systems that are creating these things, there are systems that are not working for people. So to understand that if there are systems that are not working for people, you're still going to have instances where these these things occur.

So if you're saying there's a lot of healing that needs to occur, what does that healing look like? Really to facilitate and be able to step into. Understanding that we have to have proactive approaches. And that's not saying the league has training programs. Mm-hmm. , but it's the same thing that we said about training and restorative work.

It's lifelong. You don't learn about finances in two hours or two months. It's lifelong. So just really looking at things from a lens and people may already, some people may already be doing this, right? So there's not an assumption there, but taking home and understanding that there are many perspectives to.

and considering what people may be holding in those moments, we don't know what job was holding. Mm-hmm. , we don't know what even the newscasters were holding when they, when they got there, could, they could have been triggered by this particular incident. And it was like, you're the blame. Right? But how did that, that responsibility and just understanding perspectives and then taking responsibility, we're resp we're we need to.

Yeah. Yeah. And I think there's a whole nother conversation that's to be had about us as consumers of the product that is the nba placing our values on people who we don't know and aren't in real relationship with, like parasocial relationships. Real like to protect, sorry, to project our values on these corporations or these people like.

Probably isn't the most healthy way to move through the world. I think about Charles Barky saying like, you know, I'm not a role model, right? Like, athletes aren't role models like athletes are. Whole people who are moving throughout the world. You should, you as a parent or you as a a young person should be building relationships with people in your community and building that way.

But yeah, still, please buy my shoes. , I guess like that was Charles Barkley's message in that commercial, but mm-hmm. You know, it's on us to continue to like explicitly have these conversations within our own communities. And so when incidents like this happen we have ways, we have agreements to like hold each other too, right?

Yeah. And we have ways of dealing with them, right? I know within the context of the NBA handbook, there are rules about bringing guns to the team facilities, and that's not what happened in this case, or that's not what the investigation found in this place.

Jah was doing this on his own time in his strip club, but there are like morality clauses and so like in those gray areas when the conduct is detrimental to, you know, the team, the league as a whole, right? What are the things that we're gonna put in place to make sure that. These things don't happen again.

And the person who has caused the harm and the people who have been impacted are getting the support that they need. Mm-hmm. , I'm not gonna judge whether or not the process that went on was restorative or not. I would lean towards not maybe fully holy, but again, like you and I don't know the ins and outs of what happened we can only hope for the best for Jah moving forward.

And, you know, all young people who are looking up to him and. e everybody involved. No, I mean, I, I agree. I think there's, there's many situations that even when I think about the Britney Grindr situation, which is here is this unique situation as well where you're in this position and nobody knows what to expect.

Right. And there's a whole bunch of healing that needs to take place because people, so many people are impacted by it. Right. And, and like forwarding over to, to this situation is like, you have this situation where so many people are, , and I'm curious, I'm just curious about how is this addressed from quote unquote top to bottom or from in-out.

Yeah. What, what does that look like? And I want that for the nba. I want that for the people who are there even, you know, one of the NBA players. Dame was saying the culture was talking about culture recently in the NBA and what that meant for. You know, on a podcast. And so I think there's many perspectives that we can look at and there's not one person to blame for the situation, but there are many people that can shift and shift the camera or the lens on themselves and say, okay, what do I need to shift here in order for these pe for anybody to be seen?

And for there to be an understanding from rookies who are coming into the league, down to veterans, how can, there's gotta be some sort of shift because. when you have, what is it, insanity, like doing, doing the same thing twice. What's, what's the definition is of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Thank you. Exactly. I, it's not an isolated incident. Same thing's happening over and over and over expecting a different result. So maybe this, this is the moment where they're like, okay, let's look at this. . Yeah. Well if you want to learn more about restorative justice perspectives, there are ways to do that specifically with Amplify RJ in the show notes.

You can connect with dws, work at the Restorative Homey on Instagram in TikTok, and we'll link your email in the show notes. Description as well. And then on Thursday we'll be back with a full conversation with DW and myself exploring their journey with restorative justice work. So we hope you tune in for that.

As always, like rate, subscribe, share, and all the things. Dw thank you for your perspectives right now and you know, we'll talk on Thursday and hope that you all join us. Thanks for having me.