CLEVELAND — We are several years past the collective realization that social media posts can get you fired. But a series of painfully awkward events on Thursday allows us to add an official corollary: Social media posts can also get your spouse fired.
Bryan Colangelo, the president and general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, was dismissed after a week-long investigation determined that four anonymous Twitter accounts that had defended his work and criticized Sixers players and rival executives, were operated by his wife, Barbara Bottini.
Technically, the Sixers said they “accepted his resignation,” but the reality of the move was made clear moments later when Colangelo, the former president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, issued his own statement that disputed that he had done anything wrong.
A story that has been several shades of bizarre since The Ringer, a sports and culture web site, first reported on the existence of the accounts last week, had what might have been its most surprising moment on Thursday when Colangelo blasted his wife for costing him his job. “Her actions were a seriously misguided effort to defend and support me,” he wrote. And, in an attempt to disprove the notion that he had behaved recklessly in sharing sensitive team information about injuries and strategy with Bottini, Colangelo said “the content she shared was filled with inaccuracies and conjecture which in no way represent my own views or opinions.”
So, basically: my wife tweeted a bunch of uninformed nonsense and didn’t know what she was talking about.
“We are a family and we will work through this together,” Colangelo wrote. Good luck and godspeed with that, sir.
The truth of what actually happened with those accounts will rest with Colangelo and Bottini. The investigators — a New York law firm hired by the Sixers — said they had no proof that Colangelo had any knowledge of the accounts or their many controversial tweets. But it also said it could not conclude that he did not know about them, noting that Bottini deleted the contents of her phone before handing it over to them. One of the most damning elements of the original Ringer report was that three of the anonymous accounts were turned to private settings after the reporter first contacted the Sixers to ask about Colangelo’s possible involvement with the other two. This could mean that Colangelo immediately tried to cover his tracks when he discovered that someone was sniffing around his Twitter habits, but given what has unfolded it’s also possible that Bottini started covering her tracks as soon as she heard from her husband that someone thought he had been a very loose tweeter. If one thing is certain in this story, it’s that Colangelo must have talked shop a lot around his wife.
There are significant basketball implications from all this; the Sixers are a team on the rise and they will now find someone else to try to turn them into championship contenders. Here at the NBA Finals, there is already speculation swirling that former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin is the favourite for the role. He is also, it has been noted, the guy who lured LeBron James back to Cleveland from Miami. If James ends up on the Sixers because of a bunch of reckless tweets from their former president’s spouse, it would be the weirdest NBA offseason move since that time the L.A. Clippers kept DeAndre Jordan locked in his house so he wouldn’t sign with Dallas.
But there are also so many existential questions to ponder. If it’s true that Colangelo was utterly unaware that Bottini was furiously tweeting on his behalf — ripping players, criticizing his predecessor in Philadelphia and his successor in Toronto, even defending his preferred high-collared dress shirts — then there is at least a little merit to the idea that he shouldn’t fall for the sins of his wife. People share things with their spouses. A lot of them overshare. It’s not hard to imagine a situation where someone, with what seems like laudable intent, fires some of that information into the social media sphere in an attempt to defend them or correct the public record. Bottini appears to have been doing just that, with various tweets that encouraged media members to ask certain questions or pursue specific angles on Sixers-related stories.
Because the Twitter accounts were anonymous, she must have believed they would not be connected back to her husband, but that was also the grand flaw of her strategy. Because the accounts appeared to be just Random Internet Dude, no one gave them much thought. The media members followed by the accounts had no idea that the Sixers president’s wife was behind them. That meant the accounts carried on tweeting indiscreetly for more than a year, digging a deeper and deeper hole so that, when their existence was eventually discovered and linked back to Colangelo, he was all but finished. He probably survives a couple of juicy tweets if the accounts are sussed out early.
Social media is bad for you. We knew that already. But we didn’t know it could be bad for you like this.
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