Over the last few weeks, Ja Morant’s transgressions have vaulted his name, his team, and the NBA into a space that transcends sports. And when you’ve reached that point, it’s because you’ve done something that’s either heartwarming as the end of a Christmas movie on Lifetime, or been involved in something that has uber-liberals scrunching their faces up — allegedly aiming guns at an opponent’s bus, beating up a teenager, threatening mall security guards, and brandishing guns on the internet will do that.
The Memphis Grizzlies star has earned every rebuke he’s received lately — but not this latest one.
“Memphis Grizzlies All-Star point guard Ja Morant dribbled and drooled over a stripper at the same Denver-area jiggle joint where he blew $50,000 in tips — and flashed a gun 48 hours later,” read the second paragraph in a story by the New York Post. The Daily Mail ran a similar story, writing that Morant “reportedly splashed out so much cash, money covered the room,” as if that’s not what routinely happens at strip clubs across the globe when somebody makes it rain.
This is another one of those downsides that can happen when you become front-page news. Too many people that have no idea what’s going on have an opinion on something they know nothing about, all because you choose to do something you had no business doing — the gun stuff, not the lap dances or spending money.
“This kid, real young, was exceptionally respectful, and sweet and he did not drink [on his second visit],” Deborah Dunafon, the majority owner of the strip club, Shotgun Willie’s, said in a statement. “We’ve had [Denver] Nuggets and Broncos … come in and pitch quarters at the girls, be disrespectful and nasty. He’s marvelous.”
Not so marvelous was what Dunafon’s establishment seemed to do next, as security camera photos from the night’s events soon leaked. If you want to hang Morant out to dry for the numerous dumb and dangerous things he’s been accused of and done, go ahead. But the only thing that might have been criminal that took place in that strip club was something we already saw and knew, as Morant flashed a gun on his own social media account. You only release the photos of an adult doing what adults with money do at a strip club when you want to pile on by using the images as some sort of examples of immoral acts, given the stigma with which many still view sex workers and adult entertainers.
But here’s the thing: men and women have used their bodies to make an income since the beginning of time, and it’s still a thriving job market all these centuries later — which means there’s a demand for it. Bartending, sex work, and stripping are some of the oldest professions in human history, and Dunafon makes a living by employing at least two of those at her establishment. In fact, they’re the foundation of her business. The hypocrisy is ridiculous. Unless this was the unsanctioned act of some rogue employee, the leaking of the photos is bankruptcy-inducing.
What adult wants to go to a place that has been deemed to be strictly for adults, only for the adult who owns it to potentially participate in publicly chastising their adult customers for indulging in the very activities they’re expected to partake in?
This is why Shotgun Willie’s in Glendale, Colo., will probably be on its last leg sooner than later. Not because I hope it will happen, but because releasing the photos crossed a line that you can never come back from.
This isn’t about the differences in cultures between Black strip clubs and white gentlemen’s clubs. It’s about “the code.” In the same way that (most) police will look the other way at someone drinking an alcoholic beverage out of a brown paper bag, society made a deal a long time ago that said that “what (legally) goes on in the strip club, stays in the strip club,” due to how so many felt, and still feel, that “seedy” and “wicked” things take place within them.
Well, that code has now been broken. And instead of focusing on what Morant has done, the help he needs, and what measures can be taken so that this doesn’t happen again, the conversation has been hijacked by broke, demure, and orgasmically deprived individuals who don’t have the mental bandwidth, expertise, or context to understand that focusing on how many dollars a multi-millionaire spent at a strip club is the last thing that we should be focused on right now instead of the fact that between Morant’s past, the situation at Alabama, or what happened at New Mexico State, that they’re too many guns in basketball right now.
Up until this point, everything that Ja Morant is being rightfully criticized for was for things that he’d done to himself. But the releasing of photos from a strip club, and what came with it, were a malicious attempt at turning a young man with horrible decision-making skills into a villain. Reprimand is mandatory, spitefulness is useless.
Carron J. Phillips