Barbara Bottini’s Twitter act cost Bryan Colangelo his job with Sixers
Barbara Bottini, Bryan Colangelo's wife, officially outed as the mastermind behind BurnerGate.
Last week, the world was introduced to four anonymous Twitter accounts — Eric Jr, Still Balling, Enoughunkownsources, and HonestAbe. The accounts posted multiple disparaging remarks about Sixers players, coaches, and executives.
On Thursday, those accounts, and the person behind them, Barbara Bottini, proved to be reason that Bryan Colangelo would no longer be employed as the general manager of the 76ers.
Bottini, Colangelo's wife, admitted to investigators that she was the one who started and used the burner accounts, a conclusion that internet sleuths had already come to days before Colangelo's resignation was announced.
The investigating firm hired by the Sixers — Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP — said in a statement that while there was no evidence of Colangelo participating in posting content through the four accounts, there was evidence that he was the source of the most damning content.
"Our investigation revealed substantial evidence that Mr. Colangelo was the source of sensitive, non-public, club-related information contained in certain posts to the Twitter accounts. We believe that Mr. Colangelo was careless and in some instances reckless in failing to properly safeguard sensitive, non-public, club-related information in communication with individuals outside the 76ers organization."
The individual was Barbara Bottini.
Investigating the tweets
While Bottini, 54, admitted in an interview with the firm investigating the accounts that she was the one behind the accounts, she also did something very questionable that hindered the investigation. Before handing her iPhone over to investigators, she cleared it of evidence by performing a factory reset.
This act did not keep investigators from learning that Bottini was the culprit behind the burner account tweets, but it did keep them from saying conclusively whether or not Colangelo knew about his wife's actions prior to the investigation.
Colangelo fiercely denied having any knowledge of what Bottini was up to on her various social media accounts in a personal statement released Thursday.
Colangelo, who told Yahoo Sports, "Someone's out to get me," in the early days of the investigation, changed his tune slightly on the day of his resignation. In his statement, Colangelo said his wife's actions, however misguided, were ultimately meant to defend and support him.
That's understandable when the accounts were legitimately defending Colangelo's shirt collars or the moves he'd made as general manager. It's not as clear how she was defending him with some of her other statements made through the anonymous accounts.
For example, hating on Joel Embiid: "If I had a medium size ladder, I would love to knock some sense in Joel's head right now."
Responding to Gabrielle Union, wife of Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade: "I sat NEXT to you and DW at Beijing Olympics and saw you both being rude nasty to a little kid fan."
In response to a fan paraphrasing Sam Hinkie's resignation letter: "Funny how you remember his resignation letter, down to its paragraph. I could not get past the first page…"
That's only a few examples of tweets that don't do anything in the way of defending or supporting Colangelo.
There really are too many tweets to go over every way the four accounts interacted, liked, prowled, and posted on Twitter, but there are a few things that are interesting considering today's numerous statements.
Colangelo said that his wife "acted independently and without my knowledge or consent. Further, the content she shared was filled with inaccuracies and conjecture." He added that her posts do not reflect his own opinions and he denied that he directly shared sensitive information with Bottini.
That leaves us to believe that the following statements, from the anonymous accounts, were completely independent thoughts of Bottini's or that she received the information indirectly, however that may have been.
One of the many times criticizing and insulting Joel Embiid: "He is out of shape and a bit lazy. I am tired to just trust him … do something."
Talking about Nerlens Noel: "Brett Brown wanted NN gone. Bad for locker room. Once again Colangelo protected coach and got sh@t on for it."
Again about Noel, who played for the Dallas Mavericks this past season: "Questions emerged about Noel's work ethic. He left the team for weeks to have a non-pressing thumb surgery. Until getting suspended for a drug violation (almost certainly marijuana), Noel's most notable moment of the season was eating a hot dog."
About Jahlil Okafor trades that fell through: "i am telling you that is the only possible explanation. Team asked for xrays and MRI to show THEIR docs and ensurance."
Then some information regarding Markelle Fultz's family life:
The ties that bind
The concept of family might end up being the one thing that is clear at the end of this. The little that we do know about Bottini, who was born in Italy, is that she is a loyal and doting mother to son Mattia and daughter Sophia, and that she defends her husband with reckless abandon. Those are the things that eventually linked the anonymous accounts.
>> READ MORE: What we know about Bryan Colangelo's wife
Each account followed numerous other accounts that were associated with Colangelo and Bottini's children and their schools. In addition to the followed accounts, Bottini did spend a large portion of her time on social media, attacking those that criticized her husband, and defending the decisions he made.
Even though her burner accounts have led to her husband's resignation, it is only a small stain on the Colangelos, who have proven to be a powerful and connected family for decades in the NBA and other ventures.
There's a lot to unpack in the hundreds of tweets from the four accounts that are no longer public and only available from those who archived the posts before The Ringer's May 29 report.
With that in mind, it is interesting to consider how vocal Bottini was on social media, behind fake names, and now that she has been identified as the one behind the accounts and ultimately responsible for Colangelo's unemployment, she is the only one who did not release a statement on Thursday.
It will likely be a long time before Colangelo is trusted with another executive position in the NBA, if ever. Not because of his own conduct, but because of his wife's. That's an unsettling situation, no matter what job market or level of notoriety, and it's understandable that in Colagelo's statement he mentioned how difficult of a time this was for his family.
We probably won't ever get answers to some of the questions that only Bottini can answer. Why did she do this? Why didn't she take the fall? Was the information in the tweets conjecture? How much, if any, came from Colangelo?
Even without finite answers, one thing is for sure: If they didn't know before, Sixers fans definitely know who Barbara Bottini is, and she won't be forgotten for a long time.