Ja Morant’s Impact Can Be Bigger Than Basketball

This guy is an amazing basketball player, with an incredible, possible future, not to mention the potential to be a positive influence on many young people. What a waste if he throws that away! On the positive side, he has now had a taste of what the words “Cause & Effect,” & “Karma” mean! The Buddha taught that one episode of behavior, good or bad, will not either ruin nor elevate a person’s life. However, he noted that if the behavior in question were to become persistent, then Karma will without question, punish or reward in exactly the proper measure.

Ja is on the same precipice that we all find ourselves on at various points in life. His is just way more public and carrying a likelihood of potential effect on significantly more people, many of them younger and impressionable. I hope through some grace, he is uplifted to turn the entire episode into a positive lesson for all!


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Ja Morant’s Impact Can Be Bigger Than Basketball

NY Times March 14, 2023

Mary Wainwright doesn’t know Ja Morant, but she prays for him, worries about him and wishes she could sit down with the troubled young NBA star to help him “fix him”.

Wainwright, a 64-year-old grandmother, is a staunch supporter of the community in Smokey City, the gunshot-torn neighborhood of north-central Memphis. It’s a short walk from FedExForum, the arena where Morant has performed magic as a point guard for the Grizzlies during his four notable NBA seasons.

This track has seen Morant climb to the top of NBA heaven with little turbulence—until recently.

As his team battle for the playoff position, Morant, 23, has been banned for disturbing off-field behavior which culminated two weeks ago with the emergence of a video posted on social media that showed him appearing to be a Pistol on a Colorado Strip brandished club.

When will he return? The Grizzlies said he could be back on the court against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, though NBA commissioner Adam Silver, rightfully protecting his league’s image, may have other plans.

Among the young stars being heralded as the future faces of the league, few if any have matched Morant’s daring atmosphere on the pitch – the puzzle dribble past stunned defenders; the flapping, bouncing, dreads flying dunks. The way he plays and his confident way of beating all odds has led to a burgeoning popularity in all corners of society.

That’s why it’s so important to think about Morant’s situation beyond hot takes about missed games or how his team will fare in the playoffs now. Gun violence touches every segment of American society. But it has an outsized impact in black and brown communities, where Morant’s impact is greatest.

And that’s why I reached out to Wainwright, a black citizen who is deeply rooted in her community.

“Now there’s little kids out there who are causing trouble and they see him flashing a gun and that just convinces them even more that that’s cool,” said Wainwright, who attends church daily, and keeps a close eye on what’s going on in Smokey City and attends two or three Grizzlies games a year, mostly to cheer on Morant.

“We’ve just been through so much in this city,” she said, referring to the way the violence continues to poison the streets and the January killing of Tire Nichols by a group of Memphis police officers. “Yeah, and the grizzlies were something good to hold on to. But now this.”

Her voice trailed off.

In case you weren’t paying close attention, the Colorado Contretemps were the latest misstep to tarnish Morant’s reputation in recent months.

A heated February game between the Grizzlies and the Pacers was marred by verbal confrontations between some Indiana players and Morant’s father and friend. Afterward, it was alleged that someone in Morant’s vehicle aimed a red laser, possibly from a gun, at the Pacers’ bus.

The Washington Post reported extensively on a run-in with a security guard at a Memphis mall and a fight with a teenager during a tow truck game at Morant’s home. The fight ended, the teenager told police, when Morant left and came back with a gun. Morant denied the allegation, telling police the boy yelled the following threat as he fled: “I’ll come back and light up this place like fireworks.”

Of course, none of this is good. Not the message conveyed to normalize aggression with guns. Not the optics for Morant, his team and the NBA

“I will take some time to get help and work on learning better ways to manage stress and my overall well-being,” Morant said in a written apology last week.

As I thought about this column, I shuddered as I recalled how violence scarred my extended family. I remembered my years as a city reporter visiting some of America’s most distressed communities. I’ve witnessed more than my share of bullet-riddled bodies and interviewed more than my share of families shortly after a loved one was murdered. I watched the execution of a man in San Quentin who shot a housewife and a shopkeeper.

Anyone brazenly flashing a gun annoys me in a very personal way.

In search of nuances about Morant, I reached out to a notable Memphis pastor, Rev. Earle Fisher of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. We spoke of how some have branded Morant in the most blunt terms. In some corners he’s now called a thug – and worse.

“For so many observers, it’s all one-dimensional,” Fisher said. “You’re either a slugger or an athlete working at the highest level with no bad days or mistakes.

“Fans celebrate Ja for this cheek on the pitch, this chutzpah, this sharpness,” he added. “But the idea that this 23-year-old with millions of dollars should somehow polish that edge in a short amount of time and always present himself as a respected gentleman who never shows any sign of his age, how does that make sense?”

It cannot be overlooked that to be young, black and famous nowadays one must always be aware of the danger. Recently there have been many stories about young athletes being robbed at gunpoint. Former Celtics star Paul Pierce recently admitted he had carried a gun, as is his right, because he felt he needed the protection after he was nearly stabbed at a Boston nightclub.

Bright young rappers have been killed by bullets in recent years, including Young Dolph, who was shot dead in a cookie bakery four miles from FedExForum last year.

For Morant, being rude, tough, and brazen was perhaps not just a form of pressure relief, but a form of pre-emptive “don’t mess with me” self-defense.

I’m not trying to acquit Morant, but it’s important to show a little of the complexity of the situation he finds himself in and the impact his decisions can have on people who resemble him.

Last week I spoke to Mike Cummings, a former gang member better known in Watts as Big Mike, who is now being lauded for his work bringing peace to his community. Big Mike gave it to me directly.

“What Ja did in Colorado makes my job a lot harder,” he said. “A lot of these young people that I’m trying to reach see yes and say, ‘See Mike? He’s still got the hood in him, and he’s made it as a pro ballplayer. Mike, do you see? I don’t have to change Why can’t I keep my gun?’”

I hope Morant reads this quote, as do I hope that we will show him mercy, and as I pray that he will face the fact that what he says and does carries deep weight, so heavy and burdensome it may be.

Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.  

The stable, positive, non-preachy and objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
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“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

Ja Morant’s Impact Can Be Bigger Than Basketball

Ja Morant’s Impact Can Be Bigger Than Basketball

…And here is a genuine story about how even minimal effort to bring comfort to another human can result in outsized and wonderful results. How different the world might seem to many if that kind of true effort actually ran wild! It is a thought worth considering. It is also a siren call to each of us!

New research shows small gestures matter even more than we may think.

Colombo Family Crime Boss and 12 Others Are Arrested, Prosecutors Say

An indictment unsealed on Tuesday accuses the organization of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort a labor union.

Credit…Jesse Ward


For two decades, the leadership of the Colombo crime family extorted a Queens labor union, federal prosecutors said — an effort that continued unabated even as members of the mob clan cycled through prison, the family’s notorious longtime boss died, and as federal law enforcement closed in.

Over time, what began as a Colombo captain’s shakedown of a union leader, complete with expletive-laced threats of violence, expanded into a cottage industry, prosecutors said, as the Colombo organization assumed control of contracting and union business, with side operations in phony construction certificates, marijuana trafficking and loan-sharking.

On Tuesday, 11 reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family, including the mob clan’s entire leadership, were charged in a labor racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

All but two of the men were arrested Tuesday morning across New York and New Jersey, prosecutors said. Another was surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday; another defendant, identified as the family consigliere, remained at large, prosecutors said.

The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the crime family.

The charges are an ambitious effort by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take down one of the city’s five Mafia families. In addition to the union extortion scheme, which is the heart of the racketeering charge, the indictment charges several misdeeds often associated with the mob, including drug trafficking, money laundering, loan-sharking and falsifying federal labor safety paperwork.

Detention hearings for the defendants in Brooklyn federal court continued into the evening Tuesday, as they entered not-guilty pleas to the charges; prosecutors had asked the court to keep 10 of the defendants in custody.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,” Michael J. Driscoll, F.B.I. assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement. “The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”

Around 2001, prosecutors said, Vincent Ricciardo — a reported captain in the family, also known as “Vinny Unions” — began to demand a portion of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Mr. Ricciardo was convicted and imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, prosecutors said, his cousin continued to collect those payments.

Starting in late 2019, prosecutors said, the senior leadership of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which extended to broader efforts to siphon money from the union: for example, manipulating the selection of union health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family, and diverting more than $10,000 each month from the fund to the family.

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Andrew Russo, 87, who prosecutors describe as the family boss, is accused of taking part in those efforts, as well as a money-laundering scheme to send the proceeds of the union extortion through intermediaries to Colombo associates. He was among nine defendants charged with racketeering.

Mr. Russo appeared in court virtually from the hospital Tuesday; he is set to be detained upon his release, pending a future bail hearing.

The family’s infamous longtime boss, Carmine J. Persico, died in federal custody in North Carolina in March 2019.

Federal law enforcement learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday; investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped calls and conversations recorded by a confidential witness, wrote the prosecutors, who also described law-enforcement surveillance of meetings among the accused conspirators.

The authorities said they repeatedly captured Mr. Ricciardo and his associates threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Mr. Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

On another occasion cited by prosecutors in the memo seeking his detention, Mr. Ricciardo directed the union official to hire a consultant selected by the Colombo family, saying: “It’s my union and that’s it.” Prosecutors said his activities were overseen by a Colombo soldier and the consigliere who remains at large.

Much of the activity outlined in the indictment took place while the defendants were either in prison or on supervised release for prior federal mob-related convictions. Theodore Persico Jr., described as a family captain and soldier, was released from federal prison in 2020 and, despite a directive not to associate with members of organized crime, “directed much of the labor racketeering scheme,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Persico, 58, is set to inherit the role of boss after Mr. Russo, prosecutors wrote.

Several of the defendants were named in what prosecutors described as a fraudulent safety training scheme, in which they falsified state and federal paperwork that is required for construction workers to show they have completed safety training courses.

One of the defendants, John Ragano — whom prosecutors say is a soldier in the Bonanno crime family — is accused of setting up phony occupational safety training schools in New York, which prosecutors said were “mills” that provided fraudulent safety training certificates to hundreds of people.

In October 2020, prosecutors said, an undercover law enforcement officer visited one of the schools in Ozone Park, Queens, and received, from Mr. Ricciardo’s cousin, a blank test form and an answer sheet; weeks later, the agent returned to pick up his federal safety card and paid $500.

The purported schools were also used for meetings with members of La Cosa Nostra — the group of crime families commonly known as the Mafia — and to store illegal drugs and fireworks, according to the indictment.

Mr. Ragano wasn’t charged on the racketeering count, although prosecutors also sought his detention pending trial. In addition to the racketeering count, several defendants, including Mr. Ricciardo and his cousin, were charged with extortion, conspiracy, fraud and conspiracy to make false statements.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.


An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people identified in an indictment as members of the Colombo crime family. It is 11, not more than a dozen.