The Sixers announced Wednesday morning they were investigating Bryan Colangelo after a report by the Ringer that claimed the team president secretly used Twitter to criticize Sixers players and disclose sensitive team information.
One NBA source says regardless of how the story shakes out — if it turns out Colangelo didn't send the tweets, or it was someone close to him — "the damage is done."
Here's a breakdown of everything you need to know:
The Ringer published a story at 9 p.m. Tuesday saying it had received an anonymous tip that Colangelo had five secret Twitter accounts. The accounts were used to critique current and former Sixers players, share gossip and private medical information, and defend Colangelo.
The Ringer claims an anonymous source — whose identity they still do not know — reached out via social media. This source claimed to have noticed a "a bunch of weird tweets" and "used an open-source data tool" that tracked patterns of follows, likes, and linguistic quirks. The source, who The Ringer said works in artificial intelligence, found five accounts with lots of similarities.
The Ringer determined the tip might be valid and approached the Sixers on May 22 with two account names (@phila1234567 and Eric jr), opting to withhold the other three to see if there were any changes. The Sixers said they would talk to Colangelo.
Here's what writer Ben Detrick said happened:
"That afternoon, within hours of the call, all three of the accounts I hadn't discussed with the team switched from public to private, effectively taking them offline — including one (HonestAbe) that hadn't been active since December. The Still Balling account, which had been tweeting daily, has not posted since the morning of the 22nd."
Detrick continues to explain that "Still Balling" unfollowed accounts with ties to the Colangelo family: a coach at his son's high school, his son's college teammates, and an account of a former agent.
The same day, Colangelo (through Sixers PR) confirmed one account — @Phila1234567 — belonged to him, and denied knowledge of the Eric jr account, which is the only one still public right now.
On Tuesday — a week later — The Ringer contacted the Sixers and made the team aware of the other three accounts, noting how they seemed linked. Colangelo made a statement to The Ringer saying he was "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." Colangelo said in the statement that he used the @Phila1234567 account to "monitor our industry and other current events."
A "burner account" is a common term for a social media presence that isn't tied to a real identity. Merriam-Webster wrote on the term "burner" and its entrance into the mainstream after it was added to the dictionary earlier this year, calling it "something disposable, or that cannot be traced."
The five accounts that allegedly belong to Colangelo are:
Account 1: No name, @phila1234567, joined November 2016
Account 2: HonestAbe, @HonestA34197118, joined December 2017
Account 3: Still Balling, @s_bonhams, joined February 2017
Account 4: Eric jr, @AlVic40117560, joined April 2016
Account 5: Enoughunkownsources, @Enoughunkownso1, joined November 2017
The Ringer's story features upwards of two dozen screenshots of now-hidden tweets from three accounts: HonestAbe, Still Balling and Enoughunkownsources. But there are no replies from @Phila1234567, the one account Colangelo admitted he used.
@Phila1234567 follows the most other accounts (though we cannot see them, since the account has since been switched to private). The Ringer draws conclusions between @Phila1234567 and the Eric jr account — which is the only one still unlocked (although it hasn't tweeted since May 2017) — pointing out both accounts follow a coach at Colangelo's son's former high school.
Colangelo released a statement through the Sixers in response to The Ringer's request for comment, taking ownership for @Phila1234567.
Late Wednesday afternoon, a reporter for Yahoo Sports said he heard from Colangelo.
This is where it gets good.
All but one of the accounts are now locked — meaning if you don't follow it, you can't read it. But The Ringer provided screenshots.
About Joel Embiid:
A number of the secret accounts were critical of Joel Embiid, claiming the all-star was having an "ego crisis" at the start of the 2017-18 season.
The day after the Eagles won the NFC championship game over the Vikings, one account linked to Colangelo argued Embiid spent too much time partying. On Jan. 22, the Sixers lost in Memphis. Embiid finished with a double-double, notching 15 points and 14 rebounds and shooting 5 for 13.
One account even said the Sixers would prefer The Unicorn — the Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis — over Embiid.
The Ringer goes on to detail other instances in which accounts call Embiid "selfish" and "a bit lazy" and say they plan to vote for Ben Simmons for the All-Star Game instead of Embiid. One account accuses Embiid of hiding an injury in February 2017 that eventually caused him to have surgery. Overall, the tone implies whoever was running the account found Embiid's antics detrimental to the team — and thought Simmons had more upside.
About Jahlil Okafor:
Jahlil Okafor was sent to the Nets in December, but months before that, the Sixers held him out of a series because they thought he would be traded.
The Ringer story alleges that, in the midst of the rumors, accounts run by Colangelo tweeted that Okafor didn't pass his physical and the trade wouldn't be approved — information that, if true, was never made public. Okafor didn't travel for the Sixers' Feb. 11 and 13 games.
Days after Okafor was held out of the series, one account doubled down on the notion that Okafor wouldn't be able to pass a physical — and defended Colangelo in the process, asking one Twitter user to "give the guy a break for caring about Jay's future."
The accounts went so far as to tweet at beat writers such as Philly.com's Keith Pompey, encouraging them to ask about the alleged failed physical.
About Markelle Fultz and Nerlens Noel:
The Ringer alleges the accounts had their own story about Markelle Fultz's mysterious injury, claiming a trainer who was close to Fultz's mother, Keith Williams, was the one changing his shot.
Once again, an account suggested to a reporter a possible line of questioning for a story: "If somebody would care to go look for the story of what happened with his so called mentor/father figure… it would explain a lot about the shoulder and Fultz 'state of mind.'" Still Balling wrote to Derek Bodner of the Athletic.
Nerlens Noel, who was shipped out of Philadelphia before the trade deadline in February 2017, was portrayed by the accounts linked to Colangelo as a "selfish punk," according to The Ringer.
The accounts defended the decision to get rid of the former first-round pick as recently as April of this year, more than a year after the trade.
About Masai Ujiri and Sam Hinkie:
The accounts spent time trashing Masai Ujiri, Colangelo's successor in Toronto (where he had been Raptors general manager from 2006-13).
And the accounts also had no kind words for former Sixers president Sam Hinkie, rising to defend Colangelo's actions after Hinkie resigned (and making fun of the resignation).
The accounts go so far as to call Hinkie a "pathological egomaniac" months after Colangelo took over control of the team.
The other stuff:
On top of all the team-related drama, the burner accounts revealed some petty and entertaining interactions, including calling Colangelo a "class act," defending his clothing choices, and tweeting angrily at actress Gabrielle Union.
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The Sixers announced Wednesday morning that they've launched an investigation, saying they will release the results "as soon as it is concluded." They set no timetable for the probe.
Most Sixers kept quiet on social media as the news broke. Embiid did not.
The NBA hasn't released a statement about the allegations against Colangelo. The league will likely get involved either way.
In the meantime, here are a few things to read: