Bryan Colangelo

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

76ers Team President Resigns Amid Rogue Twitter Account Scandal

June 07, 2018 - 6:05 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (WCBS 880/AP) -- In a bizarre story in Philadelphia, 76ers team president Bryan Colangelo has resigned after an investigation into whether he created anonymous Twitter accounts and used them to criticize players.

KYW Newsradio 1060 76ers reporter Jon Johnson said an investigation could not clarify whether Colangelo personally put together the “burner” Twitter accounts that criticized not only players on the team, but also other front office members – and defended him against criticism from fans and the sports media.

Some of the tweets also included private information, Johnson said.

But investigators were able to uncover that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, did share operate the rogue Twitter accounts.

“The investigation was able to uncover that she tried to reset her phone to the factory setting prior to having it confiscated by investigators, so either way, it’s very privy information – even if his wife was the one releasing this information – and it’s stuff she only could have gotten from Bryan,” Johnson said.

Colangelo resigned Thursday as president of basketball operations for the 76ers in the wake of what an investigation found was "careless and in some instances reckless" sharing of sensitive team information.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP said evidence supported the conclusion that Bottini operated the four accounts it investigated, and she admitted to doing so.

"Our investigation revealed substantial evidence that Mr. Colangelo was the source of sensitive, non-public, club-related information contained in certain posts to the Twitter accounts," the report said. "We believe that Mr. Colangelo was careless and in some instances reckless in failing to properly safeguard sensitive, non-public, club-related information in communications with individuals outside the 76ers organization."

As for Colangelo, there was no evidence he knew of the accounts before a May 22 inquiry from the sports website The Ringer for a story it reported linking him to five Twitter accounts that took aim at Philadelphia players Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz, former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie, Toronto Raptors executive Masai Ujiri and former Sixers players Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel.

Colangelo released a statement disputing that his conduct was reckless.

"At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive, non-public, club-related information with her," he said.

"Her actions were a seriously misguided effort to publicly defend and support me, and while I recognize how inappropriate these actions were, she acted independently and without my knowledge or consent. Further, the content she shared was filled with inaccuracies and conjecture which in no way represent my own views or opinions."

Evidence found that Bottini established and operated four of the accounts — Eric jr, Still Balling, Enoughunkownsources, and HonestAbe — but it seemed some of the information being posted, such as details of trade discussions or medical reports, was coming from Colangelo himself.

As such, the team said it had "become clear Bryan's relationship with our team and his ability to lead the 76ers moving forward has been compromised" and that it had accepted his resignation.

It's a stunning fall for Colangelo, a former two-time Executive of the Year who was expected to lead the improving 76ers into an important summer when they are hoping to pursue LeBron James or another All-Star player to add to a young core that includes Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Instead that role will be led for now by coach Brett Brown. The 76ers said he would oversee basketball operations on an interim basis and that the search for a new general manager would begin immediately.

"We find the situation to be disappointing for our entire organization," 76ers managing partner Josh Harris said. "We are determined to continue the tremendous progress we have made over the last two seasons in our quest to win an NBA championship."

Colangelo, the son of longtime sports executive Jerry Colangelo, was hired as president of basketball operations in 2016 after Hinkie abruptly resigned. Hinkie was the architect behind what has been called "The Process" — the long-term tearing down and rebuilding of the Sixers.

Colangelo previously served as Raptors general manager, adding the 2007 Executive of the Year award to the one he won two years earlier in Phoenix. But he lost his job there after Toronto missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, and Ujiri took over basketball operations.

"Over the last two years, I have worked hard to help build a foundation for what I hope will soon be many championship seasons for the 76ers," Colangelo said. "I am grateful to team owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer for the opportunity they gave me to be part of such a great organization. I am saddened to have to leave under these circumstances."

As to whether Colangelo will ever be likely to work in the NBA again, Johnson said at minimum, some time will have to go by.

“And speaking to several players – not only the 76ers, but around the league during this scandal, asking them, you know, ‘Could you play for someone that, you know, released the type of information; look past it, perhaps?’” Johnson said. “And most of them didn’t have an issue with Bryan supposedly talking badly about them, but they all took issue with the release of medical information as if that was a deal-breaker.”

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)