New York (AFP) – Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo quit on Thursday after it emerged that his wife operated fake Twitter accounts to praise his work and criticise players, the team said.
A statement from Sixers managing partner Josh Harris said Colangelo had tendered his resignation following an investigation into the allegations which broke last week.
“It has become clear Bryan’s relationship with our team and his ability to lead the 76ers moving forward has been compromised,” Harris said. “Recognising the detrimental impact this matter had on the organisation, Colangelo offered his resignation.”
Colangelo’s departure came after The Ringer news website said the executive had secretly operated five Twitter accounts under bogus identities and used them to take potshots at Sixers players and coaching staff.
In a statement last week, Colangelo acknowledged using one anonymous Twitter account identified in The Ringer story but denied any link to the four other accounts.
The Sixers commissioned a New York law firm — Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison — to investigate the allegations, which led to the discovery that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, was behind the accounts.
The firm said Bottini had admitted setting up the accounts and posting content. However the investigation said it had found no evidence of Colangelo’s involvement.
“The evidence supports the conclusion that Ms. Barbara Bottini … established the Twitter accounts and posted content on those accounts,” the law firm said in a statement.
“When interviewed, Ms. Bottini admitted establishing and operating the accounts. We cannot conclude that Mr Colangelo was aware of the Twitter accounts prior to the May 22 press inquiry.”
The firm noted however that the investigation had been “limited and impeded” by the fact that Bottini had executed a “factory reset” of her iPhone before turning it over to investigators for analysis.
– ‘Seriously misguided’ –
The investigators said Colangelo had also been “careless and in some instances reckless” in failing to “properly safeguard sensitive, non-public, club-related information.”
In a separate statement, Colangelo said his wife’s conduct was a “seriously misguided effort to publicly defend and support me.”
“While I recognize how inappropriate these actions were, she acted independently and without my knowledge or consent,” he said.
“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.”
While the Twitter account acknowledged by Colangelo was only used to follow or monitor other users on the site, the four other accounts were used to post messages.
From April 2016 until last month, the accounts insulted players including 76ers Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz, while criticising executives such as former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie and Toronto president Masai Ujiri.
The accounts also “relentlessly defended or promoted” Colangelo at every opportunity, The Ringer report said.
“We find the situation to be disappointing for our entire organisation,” Sixers partner Harris said.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown would assume Colangelo’s responsibilities on an interim basis until a permanent replacement was found, Harris added.
Colangelo took up his position with the Sixers in 2016, overseeing a rebuilding process that helped them reach the playoffs this year for the first time since 2012.
Colangelo is the son of long-time NBA executive Jerry Colangelo, the former owner of the Phoenix Suns who serves as a special adviser to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Colangelo Sr. was also the director of USA Basketball from 2005, helping the men’s team win the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 FIBA World Championships.