Bryan Colangelo, 76ers Part Ways After Burner Account Allegations Emerge

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2018

Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo speaks with members of the media during a news conference at the NBA basketball team's practice facility in Camden, N.J., Friday, May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Bryan Colangelo is no longer the Philadelphia 76ers' president of basketball operations.

The Sixers announced Colangelo agreed to resign Thursday in the aftermath of an extensive investigation detailing his alleged use of burner Twitter accounts to criticize his team's own players, coaches and coverage.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first broke the news.

The law firm hired to investigate the matter revealed Colangelo's wife, Barbara, admitted to establishing and operating the accounts," according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. 

Jerry Colangelo, Bryan's father and a special adviser to the Sixers, reportedly "tried to intervene on Bryan's behalf, threatening to interfere with club relationships around the league," per Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice. 

Colangelo released a statement on the investigation and decision to part ways: 

"While I am grateful that the independent investigation conducted by the 76ers has confirmed that I had no knowledge of or involvement in the Twitter activity conducted by my wife, I vigorously dispute the allegation that my conduct was in any way reckless. At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive, non-public, club-related information with her.

"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. While this was obviously a mistake, we are a family and we will work through this together.

"Although I am not directly responsible for the actions, I regret this incident occurred and understand that it has become a distraction for the team. Therefore, the organization and I have mutually agreed to part ways."

Ben Detrick of The Ringer published the investigation on May 29, noting it started with an anonymous tip alleging Colangelo had five secret Twitter accounts. Colangelo ultimately admitted to using one (@phila1234567) that didn't actively tweet, but three of the accounts switched to private when Detrick reached out to the Sixers regarding Colangelo's potential connections to the other two.

Detrick detailed the head-turning tweets, many of which emanated in response to criticism Colangelo received for trades or other moves. Some of the tweets bashed his predecessor, Sam Hinkie, and the positive media coverage Hinkie received after he stepped down.

The accounts claimed Jahlil Okafor failed a physical, nullifying a potential trade to the New Orleans Pelicans in February 2017. They also called Nerlens Noel a "selfish punk" after Colangelo was criticized for the paltry haul he received from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the disgruntled center, and they suggested Joel Embiid hid injury information from the team.

Embiid's fondness for social media was also scorned, and the accounts described the franchise center as "a bit lazy" and "selfish" while saying the 76ers were now Ben Simmons' team.

The accounts even accused head coach Brett Brown of sabotaging the team by benching Markelle Fultz and blamed a family friend and trainer for the guard's shooting issues.

Colangelo issued the following statement regarding the report, per Detrick:

"Like many of my colleagues in sports, I have used social media as a means to keep up with the news. While I have never posted anything whatsoever on social media, I have used the @Phila1234567 Twitter account referenced in this story to monitor our industry and other current events. This storyline is disturbing to me on many levels, as I am not familiar with any of the other accounts that have been brought to my attention, nor do I know who is behind them or what their motives may be in using them."

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports spoke with Colangelo, who reiterated he didn't know the "motives or origin" of the other accounts.

As for Embiid, he told Wojnarowski, "I talked to him and he said that he didn't say that. He called me just to deny the story. Gotta believe him until proven otherwise. If true though, that would be really bad."

However, the center's original reactions included a #BurnerAccount hashtag:

Joel Embiid @JoelEmbiid

BRUH https://t.co/hv59PDxlgY

Joel Embiid @JoelEmbiid

Joel told me that @samhinkie IS BETTER AND SMARTER THAN YOU @AlVic40117560 #BurnerAccount

Wojnarowski pointed out the burner accounts reflected some of the frustrations Colangelo shared in the past:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

Maybe there’s an IT person who can prove it wasn’t Bryan Colangelo, but here’s one of his biggest problems in disputing Ringer story: Those tweets reflected not only private team biz, but launched personal beefs/jealousies/frustrations that he’s shared inside and outside 76ers.

Not only did this ordeal lead to Colangelo's departure, but it also stains what was previously an impressive resume. He won Executive of the Year in 2004-05 when he was with the Phoenix Suns and again in 2006-07 when he was with the Toronto Raptors. He also helped put the 76ers in position to challenge for the Eastern Conference for years to come.

He was named the Sixers' president of basketball operations in April 2016, a mere four days after Hinkie resigned. At the time, Philadelphia also said Colangelo's father, Jerry, would slide into an advisory role after serving as the team's chairman of basketball operations.

Other than the front office turmoil, the Sixers are in a great place after going 52-30 and making the second round of the playoffs in 2017-18. They have blossoming stars in Simmons and Embiid to go with complementary pieces in Dario Saric and Robert Covington, and it is far too soon to give up on 2017 No. 1 overall pick Fultz, who missed much of his rookie season with a mysterious shoulder ailment.

All of that talent makes Philadelphia an enticing landing spot for free agents, but the Colangelo situation added significant drama to the offseason before his exit Thursday.