The Philadelphia 76ers are investigating allegations that team president Bryan Colangelo uses multiple anonymous Twitter accounts to criticize players and other members of the organization, disclose private information, defend his own reputation and more.
In an article published Tuesday night by the Ringer, writer Ben Detrick stated that an anonymous source tipped him off to the five Twitter accounts allegedly being operated by Colangelo. Detrick received a statement from Colangelo denying any association with four of the five accounts and that he used the other one “only to monitor our industry and other current events.”
Still, Detrick uncovered enough links between Colangelo and the accounts to spark an independent investigation into the matter by the 76ers.
“The allegations are serious and we have commenced an independent investigation into the matter," the team said in a statement. "We will report the results of that investigation as soon as it is concluded."
Earlier this month, Detrick wrote, he enquired about two of the five accounts in an email to the 76ers. He received a call later that day from the team’s media representative, who said he’d ask Colangelo if he had any information about those two accounts.
Hours later, Detrick wrote, all three of the accounts he hadn’t mentioned to the team had been switched from public to private. Later in the day, the team representative confirmed to Detrick that his inquiry about the accounts had only been shared with Colangelo.
A week later, Detrick contacted the team to ask about the seemingly linked nature of all five accounts. This time he received a statement from Colangelo:
“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.”
According to Detrick, his source “used an open-source data analysis tool to link five accounts through commonalities including similarities in who the accounts followed and linguistic quirks.” Of his own research into the accounts, Detrick wrote, “patterns emerge when one combs through thousands of their replies, retweets, and likes.”
According to Detrick, the accounts in question seemed to have inside information, such as an alleged failed physical by then-76er Jahlil Okafor and a blockbuster trade before it happened.
“In several cases, [one of the accounts] abandoned the voice of a concerned fan and divulged specifics that appeared to put the user and Colangelo in the same place at the same time,” Detrick wrote.
The accounts also sent out tweets that have insulted star players, such as Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz, and criticized coach Brett Brown and Colangelo’s predecessor, Sam Hinkie.
Often the tweets would reveal potentially damaging information about players and challenge journalists to report those claims, sometimes even providing specific questions to ask the players or organization.
“And, at every turn,” Detrick wrote, “the accounts relentlessly defended or promoted Colangelo.”
Embiid took to Twitter on Tuesday night, stating that the allegations in Detrick’s article were too crazy to be true.