Philadelphia 76ers executive and general manager Bryan Colangelo has resigned from the team after his wife admitted to using several shadow Twitter accounts to release sensitive team information and criticize players.
Colangelo, the Sixers' president of basketball operations, and his wife, Barbara Bottini, were linked to five Twitter accounts that at times tweeted criticisms of NBA players, the Sixers front office and Colangelo's successor at the Toronto Raptors.
A week-long investigation conducted by New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP on the team's behalf found digital forensic evidence linking four of the accounts to Bottini, the attorneys said in a statement on Thursday.
Bottini later admitted to creating the accounts, the law firm said. She also wiped the contents of her iPhone prior to turning it over as part of the probe.
The law firm said they could not determine if Colangelo, 54, knew his wife was using the accounts, but the Sixers said the situation compromised his ability to lead the team.
"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 law firm said in a statement.
"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."
Colangeo, who does not have a public social media presence, admitted to using one account — @Phila1234567 — to follow news about professional basketball, but denied any connection to the other four. They were: @AlVic40117560, @Honesta34197118, @Enoughunknownso1 and @s_bonhams.
He issued a fiery statement following the announcement calling his wife's actions "seriously misguided" while denying that he ever shared confidential team information with her.
"At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive, non-public, club-related information with her," Colangelo said.
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"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."
The Twitterstorm began in late May when the sports website The Ringer published the accusations after receiving an anonymous tip. The report claimed Colangelo criticized Sixers center Joel Embiid, the team's former GM Sam Hinkie and disclosed private medical information about former Sixers center Jahlil Okafor.
Among other things, the user or users of the accounts complained that Embiid, the 24-year-old All-Star, was "playing like a toddler having tantrums" and was "a bit lazy," ''selfish" and "acting like a tool."
The user of one of the accounts claimed to know Colangelo and described him more than once as a "class act." The tweets also raised the question of whether Colangelo used the anonymous accounts to divulge team strategy and details about players' medical conditions.
Shortly after Colangelo's denial, the Sixers announced they'd opened an internal investigation into the claims. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the team hired the law firm to conduct the investigation.
"The allegations are serious and we have commenced an independent investigation into the matter," the Sixers said Wednesday in a statement. "We will report the results of that investigation as soon as it is concluded."
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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 "The Process" — the long-term tearing down and rebuilding of the Sixers.
Colangelo previously served as Raptors general manager. He lost his job there after Toronto missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, and Masai Ujiri took over basketball operations.
According to The Ringer, one of the Twitter accounts it connected to Colangelo bristled at the suggestion that Hinkie deserved credit for the Sixers' turnaround.
"BC has done nothing but clean up hinkie's mess," the account user wrote in January 2017, referring to Colangelo. Another post lamented that Ujiri hadn't done anything to make the Raptors better.
Colangelo has been blamed by Philly fans for the so-far disastrous deal that brought Markelle Fultz to the Sixers. One of the accounts that The Ringer linked to Colangelo blamed Fultz's poor performance on his longtime trainer and his "so called mentor/father figure."
The Sixers called the flap "disappointing." Head coach Brett Brown will oversee basketball operations until a replacement president is hired. The search will begin immediately, the team said in a statement.