Image: Morant Instagram Live screenshot |

NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal offers up a powerful message regarding NBA player Ja Morant’s suspension and potential loss of millions of dollars: “He put himself in this situation.”

As reported by numerous media outlets, including USA Today, “Morant is taking time away from the basketball court to focus on his well-being after he was suspended by the [Memphis] Grizzlies for at least two games for allegedly flashing a gun at a nightclub on Instagram Live early Saturday morning. There’s no timetable for his return.”

In an interview, O’Neal said “there are responsibilities that come with the profession. He knows the letter of the law, what not to do and what not to say. You got to have enough common sense to know that wasn’t going to go how you wanted it to go. You’re not a rapper. You’re an NBA player.”

Not sure that rapper part was needed, but okay. Message landed.

Although most of us cannot relate to being a 23-year-old millionaire, we can relate to the need to surround ourselves with people – a village – who will make sure we know better, especially when memory fails us.  Because, let’s face it, we make mistakes. How many of us have shot ourselves in the foot? How many of us have put ourselves in unfortunate situations that we inevitably regret? How many of us wish we could turn back the clock and rewind our personal brand?

Raise your hand if you put a check next to any of those questions. I certainly did. But the key is to not keep making the same or equally damaging mistakes. By many accounts, Morant’s gun selfie was the latest in a string of controversies.

This semester, I am teaching a course at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) called Personal Branding for a Competitive Edge. The Ja Morant story is a real-life case for my students to analyze. I asked my students what immediate steps should be taken to try to stop the bleeding, soften the blows, and begin to rebuild Morant’s personal brand?  One action took the number one spot: Issue a public apology.

Morant did just that.

“I take full responsibility for my actions last night. I’m sorry to my family teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire Grizzlies organization for letting you down. I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”

Morant’s public apology was apparently all Nike needed. Nike is Morant’s primary sponsor. After Morant issued his statement, Nike followed with its own, making it clear it intends to stick with Morant just one month after launching his signature shoe.

“We appreciate Ja’s accountability and that he is taking the time to get the help he needs. We support his prioritization of his well-being.”

Back in my UMass Boston class, one of my students offered this sobering lesson from Ja Morant’s teachable moment: Think before you do.