NBA rocked by explosive burner account controversy

The NBA has been rocked by reports of a high-level Philadelphia 76ers official using burner Twitter accounts to launch brutal attacks on players and coaches.

It appears that 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo may have used a series of secret Twitter accounts to criticise players, NBA coaches — including his own coach Brett Brown — and other  league executives, and disclose sensitive team information, according to a report from The Ringer on Tuesday night.

The report, from The Ringer’s Ben Detrik, details five different Twitter accounts that an unnamed source who “worked in artificial intelligence” tipped Detrik off about in February.

After months of investigating and tracking the accounts’ movements, Detrik reached out to the 76ers last week asking for comments.

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Joel Embiid (right) has become embroiled in the controversy. Pic: Getty

Soon after, the accounts went dark.

From The Ringer:

Since [discovering the accounts], we have scrutinised and archived those accounts in an attempt to verify the source’s claims that the longtime NBA executive has been using them as a platform to:

  • Criticize NBA players, including Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Nerlens Noel
  • Publicly debate the decisions of his own coaching staff, as well as critique former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie and Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri
  • Telegraph the 2017 trade in which the Sixers acquired the no. 1 overall pick that would become Markelle Fultz
  • Disclose nonpublic medical information about Okafor and gossip about Embiid and Fultz to members of the national and Philadelphia media

Colangelo confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that one account, @phila1234567, was his after Detrik reached out for comment again.

Bryan Colangelo (left) and Ben Simmons attend a press conference after the 2016 NBA Draft. Pic: Getty

That account is protected and doesn’t actively tweet. Colangelo, though, denied in a statement that any of the other four accounts detailed in the report were his or that he had anything to do with them, calling the storyline “disturbing to me on many levels.”

“Like many of my colleagues in sports, I have used social media as a means to keep up with the news,” Colangelo said.

“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.”

He stood by his statement on Tuesday night, too, telling Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania that he has no knowledge of “motives or origin” of the allegations.

Colangelo, 52, was hired by the 76ers in April 2016.

Joel Embiid’s reaction

Joel Embiid was also criticized by the accounts linked to Colangelo. The Philadelphia big man didn’t take to kindly to the allegations that the Twitter troll was a high-ranking member of the 76ers organization, either.

He tweeted at one of the accounts linked to Colangelo, too, and brought up Sam Hinkie, the former general manager for the Sixers.

“Joel told me that @SamHinkie IS BETTER AND SMARTER THAN YOU,” Embiid wrote, adding the hashtag #BurnerAccount.

He even started liking tweets from the burner accounts that were criticizing him.

Embiid did tell ESPN on Tuesday night that he spoke with Colangelo on the phone, where he again denied the allegations.

“I talked to him and he said that he didn’t say that,” Embiid told ESPN. “He called me just to deny the story. Gotta believe him until proven otherwise. If true though, that would be really bad.”