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Ja Morant Fumbles the Bag
Is clout on IG Live worth $100 Million?
Welcome to all the new subscribers from the ‘Ugh, Capitalism’ piece. Glad to have you! Here you’ll find weekly essays analyzing online culture, online politics, and the incredible power of the internet to make us do stupid things.
The Power of Posting
If you’re new here, welcome! One of the foundational theses of this blog is that posting is the most powerful force in the universe. People know it’s bad for them, but they can’t help but post anyways. It’s like the One Ring in Lord of the Rings. From that previous essay:
The first time I watched the Lord of the Rings films it struck me that while everyone knows the One Ring will warp your mind, characters still fall into the trap. The ring has a will of its own. It’s a malevolent force in the LOTR universe, and it whispers to you. “Think how much you could accomplish with my power”, it says. “Just pick me up and use me, you are the one destined to rule”. These characters know what the ring is. They are fully aware of the trap, but they’re still snared by it.
Posting on the internet is the One Ring. It whispers to you how interesting and cool you are. It murmurs that you’re always correct and your views are important. It tells you that everyone will recognize how right you are this as soon as you hit the send button. Think how many people will agree with your ideas! Think how many people will laugh along with your jokes! The allure of posting whispers to us all, and we’re sucked in by the promises of fame, clout, adoration and more.
There’s plenty of reason to believe this is true. We see regularly see people ruining their lives to get clout from small audiences they don’t even know in real life. We see very rich people lighting piles of money on fire - because given a choice between being cool online and keeping their Scrooge McDuck money vault, they’d genuinely rather be cool online. The power of posting is extremely hard to overcome.
Anyways! Here’s NBA mega-star Ja Morant on IG live this week:
Ja Morant is without question one of the 20 best basketball players in the world. He’s a phenomenally talented NBA all-star hyper-millionaire who absolutely cannot stop posting videos of himself waving guns around on social media.
Ja has had a rough year when it comes to violence and guns. In just the last year, he has
Insinuated he would shoot a fan with hollow point bullets on Twitter
Assaulted a mall security guard
Beaten up a teen in a pickup basketball game and flashed a gun at him
Threatened a different teenager
Pointed a laser sight, supposedly attached to a gun, at another NBA team's bus
Flashed a gun on IG live in a Denver strip club in March, which was 100% illegal in Colorado
The NBA, unsurprisingly, was not very happy about this! Most of the incidents could be swept under the table to some degree, but the IG live video from a few months ago was a tipping point. It was highly public, it couldn’t be covered up, and it was a clear criminal act from a player with a reputation for violent outbursts and poor decision making.
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The NBA suspended Morant for eight games. Like so many celebrities before him, Morant went to a sham therapy/rehab situation and then proclaimed himself better after a few days. He learned valuable lessons, the most important being: You can do almost anything you want as a rich NBA megastar, just don’t threaten the brand by flashing guns on social media.
Ja Morant Fumbles The Bag
And two months, later, he’s done it again. It seems likely that the NBA could deliver a lengthy suspension - some speculate up to half a season. This is what the youths call ‘fumbling the bag’.
Morant’s first video cost him $1 million in direct salary, but much more indirectly. His contract has a clause that would pay him $39 million more if he had made the all-NBA team this year. He seemed likely to do it - before he was suspended eight games and had his reputation nosedive. How much is the clout from a terribly lit IG live video worth? At least $39 million.
And now he’s probably cost himself even more with his second IG live gun video. If he’s suspended half of next season, he’ll lose tens of millions in direct salary. It seems likely that some of his big name sponsors like Powerade and Nike will end up dropping him (as well as other potential sponsors being scared away), which is tens of millions more. He may legitimately lose hundreds of millions of dollars when all is said and done, simply because he can’t stop himself from posting gun videos on Instagram to prove how ‘street’ he is.
This entire incident exists in the liminal space between tragedy and comedy. It’s tragic to watch somebody blow up their reputation and career like this, but it’s hilarious that all he had to do was Not Post. He’s not being ratted out by friends or paparazzi. He’s doing it himself!
According to most reports, Ja isn’t even particularly street - he grew up in a relatively middle class town and attended a private high school. There are players in the NBA from legitimate poverty and with legitimate gang links - for instance, DeMar DeRozan is famously linked to the Crips, to the point that he wore a blue Santa Suit to a charity event rather than voluntarily wear red. But DeMar is also regarded as highly professional and a class act within the NBA. Players like DeMar are regarded as the success stories who made it out of the hood into the league. Morant seems to be trying to make it out of the league and into the hood.
Perhaps the most tragicomic element of all is the size of the audience on IG Live. You could almost understand if Morant was broadcasting to hundreds of thousands or millions of adoring fans. Pulling out the gun would still be a stupid decision, but the rush of being in front of millions is understandable. Were there millions watching? Check the image above one more time:
Ja Morant, who is already an incredibly wealthy and famous superstar, may have just burned a hundred million dollars of future earnings to impress one hundred and eleven teenagers. I’m not sure there will ever be stronger evidence that posting is a mystical force in the universe that drives normal people to do insane things.
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