Could the allegation that Sixers president Bryan Colangelo used anonymous Twitter accounts to criticize his players and reveal their sensitive medical information actually be “weirdly good” for the NBA?
That was a question Michael Wilbon of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption posed on the show to co-host Tony Kornheiser, who offered an enthusiastic response.
“It’s not weirdly good — it’s great for the NBA!” Kornheiser said. “It has intrigue. It has high tech. It has heroes and villains. It is a detective story. And it gives Joel Embiid the chance, once again, to talk.”
The collective opinion of most pundits is that the story is a potential black eye for the league, considering reports that the team’s hiring of Colangelo in April 2016, four days after Sam Hinkie resigned as Sixers president and general manager, was “spurred” by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. But Wilbon and Kornheiser both said they think the NBA will benefit from the continuing coverage of this weird story, first reported by The Ringer website.
“The most jealous people out there, whose stomachs you hear churning, are in the offices of the NFL and the MLB, because they can’t get this,” Wilbon said, crediting the two-way obsession with social media between NBA fans and players.
“You have to step back for a second on this story and you say what is the downside, and the answer is there is no downside,” Kornheiser added. “Downside for Bryan Colangelo, upside for everybody else.”
We have yet to find out if 76ers exec Bryan Colangelo is the person behind the tweets about Embiid, Hinkie, Okafor and others. Either way, is this the type of story the league should want out there? pic.twitter.com/DctmVr2u3N
— PTI (@PTI) May 30, 2018
SportsRadio 94.1 midday host and former Eagles fullback Jon Ritchie appeared much less upbeat than Kornheiser and Wilbon, telling listeners on Thursday that he “felt literally sick” after having discussed the story practically non-stop for four hours Wednesday.
Joining Ritchie and co-host Joe DeCamara was Chris Ryan, the editor at The Ringer who handled the Colangelo story.
“I know there were a lot of memes that came out of this, and I know that everybody had a good time on Twitter the other night, and that’s amazing to watch happen,” Ryan said. “It’s not something that we went about doing lightly. And it’s not something we’re reveling in necessarily. It’s not a victory-lap thing.”
Ryan also acknowledged that, as far as he knew, neither Colangelo nor the Sixers had reached out to The Ringer about any potential lawsuits over the story.
“When you’re working on stories like this, and you do stories like this, you owe it to what you’re doing to be as serious as possible about it,” Ryan said. “And we were.”
While Colangelo’s job with the Sixers could be in jeopardy, he doesn’t appear to be in much legal jeopardy, according to Exavier Pope, a legal contributor to The Athletic and owner of The Pope Law Firm. Pope wrote that even if the tweets are linked to Colangelo, they don’t appear to violate the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, which also preempts any potential invasion-of-privacy or defamation lawsuits. They also don’t seem to violate the the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, known as HIPAA.
“The Philadelphia 76ers could face a grievance from Okafor for Colangelo revealing Okafor failed a previously unknown physical, but beyond that, there is not much else,” Pope wrote.
Despite the NBA potentially benefiting from the publicity created by the controversy, the Sixers could end up on the losing side if the team’s investigation drags on and impacts the organization in free agency.
According to my colleague Sarah Todd, three current NBA players not on the Sixers roster said it would be hard to trust Colangelo, even if he ends up not being responsible for the Twitter accounts.
“I don’t think that matters,” one NBA player said. “I’m just thinking about the guys on the team. If he’s letting that information get out there and can’t control the people around him from blasting this stuff on Twitter, then you can’t trust him.”