Colangelo and His Demise: Do the NBA and Other Professional and Collegiate Athletic Organizations Need Social Media/Confidentiality Policies for Family Members/Third Parties?

June 18, 2018

The President of Basketball Operations of the Philadelphia 76ers, Bryan Colangelo, stepped down Thursday, June 7, 2018 from said role. This resignation came after it was discovered that Colangelo’s wife had utilized confidential information about his team and its players to berate them on social media from anonymous Twitter accounts. Colangelo was a two-time winner of the NBA Executive of the Year, and he had helped take a long-suffering Philadelphia 76ers team into a successful run in the NBA playoffs this past season.

Colangelo’s wife apparently had set up several different “burner” Twitter anonymous accounts, which revealed all kinds of confidential information about the team. Her tweets allegedly included everything from criticizing player Markelle Fultz’s shooting progress to information about former player Jahlil Okafor’s failure of a physical that prevented a trade from happening, to criticizing star player Joel Embiid’s attitude. It was these type of Tweets that could only be known on the “inside” and included devastating information that no executive should ever allow anyone outside of the organization to see

The 76ers had retained a New York law firm to conduct an investigation, and after so doing, Colangelo’s wife allegedly confessed to running on or around three of the burner Twitter accounts. Yes, Colangelo’s wife. After this was discovered, the independent investigators recommended the 76ers part ways with Colangelo, and shortly thereafter he resigned from his position. In Colangelo’s statement, he essentially articulates he did not intentionally do anything wrong, he admitted his wife made a mistake, and although he stated he would work through this with his wife, he stepped down because of this distraction for the team.

Hot Takes

  1.  This really begs the question of whether or not professional and collegiate sports teams (both players and executives) should have social media and confidentiality policies that deal with what they can relay to families and other third parties. In light of this incident, I don’t see how the leagues and individual teams can ignore this. If you are privileged to work for a professional or collegiate athletic team, there should be a certain level of duty and/or responsibility to keep certain information private/confidential.
  2. However, it  brings to light the issue of what can you really control, and also freedom of speech and freedom of expression questions. If a player and/or his spouse or significant other do not like the way a team or player is being treated, there are Constitutional issues that arise, even if a confidentiality agreement is signed, that make the issue a lot grayer.
  3. One thing is clear: Professional and collegiate teams cannot ignore the fact that we live in a world of fast paced news, media and technology. In the matter of a minute, a team’s secrets can be exposed to the world via Twitter, Instagram, or other online media. Teams should strongly consider addressing these “elephants in the room” as the last thing they want is to have their team’s inner, confidential secrets released to the world to the detriment of the team. It is a policy that each league, organization, and team should consider implementing while balancing issues such as confidentiality, freedom of speech, and what information you can and cannot control.

Allen, Glassman & Schatz, LLC