The NBA Coach, The Secrets, The Loving Wife, And Twitter

The Colangelos (though she goes by the name of Barbara Bottini)

This isn’t exactly a social media ethics story, not entirely. Yes, it reinforces the Ethics Alarms position that Twitter makes you stupid, and that it is an ethics disaster waiting to happen for the impulsive and the unwary. The main ethics lesson, however, lies elsewhere,

Bryan Colangelo resigned as the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers two weeks ago despite leading his perennially doormat team to the NBA play-offs this season for the first time in many years. He resigned in the middle of a Twitter scandal. The Ringer, a sports website,  received an anonymous tip from someone who claimed that he  or she had linked five anonymous Twitter accounts to Colangelo. The accounts had all tweeted about internal matters relating to the 76ers players, personnel and business, even, in one tweet, defending Colangelo for his eccentric shirt collar style, which had been the topic of some social media mockery.

The Ringer contacted the 76ers, but only told the organization about two of the suspicious accounts, not all five. Colangelo informed the team that one of them, @Phila1234567, was indeed his, but insisted that he had never posted anything using it. Coincidentally, or probably not, the other three accounts that the Ringer had not revealed were suddenly switched from public to private after the  76ers had their little talk. After the Ringer published The Mystery Of The Insider Tweets,  the 76ers  hired a large New York law firm  to conduct an independent investigation. Over the course of a week, the firm collected several  suspicious laptops and mobile phones (well, it was the owners who were really the suspected ones; you can’t blame the devices), and retrieved text messages and emails. Investigators also analyzed the involved Twitter accounts to try to determine who was behind them.

One of the mobile phones examined belonged to Colangelo’s wife, Barbara. Investigators concluded that she, or someone,  had attempted to wipe its data—you, know, like with a cloth?— by resetting the device. Nevertheless, the law firm said in its report that it had not been Colangelo, but Mrs. Colangelo who had created and operated the accounts, and, of course, composed the tweets. She had been tweeting in support and defense of her husband, but also, unfortunately, her tweets to the world included confidential, proprietary information of the sort that employees are ethically and often contractually obligated not to disclose to anyone outside of their organizations. The investigators concluded that there was “substantial evidence” that  Colangelo had been the source of sensitive material posted, and that he had been “reckless in failing to properly safeguard sensitive, nonpublic, club-related information in communications with individuals outside the 76ers organization.”

Colangelo resigned.

How many professionals in law, government, military, accounting, medicine, journalism, business, education and other fields routinely share proprietary and confidential information related to their work with their spouses? My guess: a lot. Too many. Their theory is that somehow the marital bond is an exception to the ethical duties of the workplace. It isn’t, and Colangelo’s fall is a useful cautionary tale to illustrate why it isn’t, especially in the age of social media. The oft-heard boast that “there are no secrets” between spouses, if true, is a statement that makes either spouse untrustworthy and unemployable in many fields and jobs. Colangelo was sharing his work frustrations and problems with his wife, who, apparently, had her IQ reduced by Twitter to double digits, assuming it was in triple digits to begin with.

Let it be a lesson to us all.

_____________________

Facts: New York Times

23 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Romance and Relationships, Social Media, Sports, Workplace

23 responses to “The NBA Coach, The Secrets, The Loving Wife, And Twitter

  1. Edward

    I still don’t understand Twitter mentality. From the very beginning I said to myself, “why do I want to put all my personal thoughts on public display and who cares for that matter”. I guess the second part of that thought is answered by all the people that are looking for something to offend them.

    Anyway, I abhor twitter and especially news articles or posts that are embedded with tweets. This person said this, this person said that. I just want to read a news story – not random opinions on the subject. When I encounter a news story or blog post that has embedded tweets, I immediately move on – the only exception is if the article is about a tweet itself or some aspect of the tweet.

    Again, to this day, I still don’t understand Twitter mentality. Of course, I’m a person who doesn’t even use Facebook or LinkedIn, etc. I guess I’m just not a social media person.

  2. Steve-O-in-NJ

    To put it crudely but truthfully, where the sperm flows, the information flows with it. I remember touring the cruiser USS Monterey during Fleet Week in NYC many years ago. The ensign who guided the tour scrupulously explained that although the ship COULD carry Tomahawk nuclear cruise missiles, he of course “could neither confirm nor deny” whether they WERE carrying them, since the Navy doesn’t want anyone to know who doesn’t need to know exactly which ships are armed with what. I later saw one of the sailors walking with a somewhat underdressed woman and overheard part of their conversation. They’d obviously just met, since she asked him how long he had been in the Navy, and the last question before they passed from earshot was “tell me about this big ship of yours…” I snickered to myself that I’m sure he’d spill every piece of classified information he knew before he spilled his load.

    • Yup, that’s putting it crudely, all right!

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        Then again, since it’s now OK to yell “Fuck Trump” on national TV and tweet that you want the president’s minor son ripped from his parents and handed over to pedophiles, I think colorfully saying that someone is likely to spill any and all information to the person he’s having sex with is pretty minimal.

        • Steve-O-in-NJ

          Oh, and not to mention it’s ok for elected officials to publicly flip off the Vice President when he has the temerity to come to their city. Frankly I think you’ve got enough for another “Nation of Assholes” post, chronicling this nation’s, and especially the left’s, descent further and further down that bodily orifice and closer and closer to that which lies within.

  3. Other Bill

    Brian will catch on wih some other organization. He’s second generation (see Colangelo, Jerry) NBA royalty, you know. Besides which, his work with the Raptors and the 76ers speaks well of his abilities. He’ll probably be in charge of another franchise’s basketball operations before next season begins. If I were a GM of another franchise, I’d be looking over my shoulder.

    Law schools should warn beginning students that they will not have much to talk about with their spouses when they get home from work, which may very well annoy their spouses to the point of becoming a longstanding bone of contention.

  4. I recently got a notice via email from Twitter, I guess I had created a personal Twitter account a long, long time ago, probably shorty after I caught wind of the platform, I completely forgot about it, I never used it, but I did reactivate it. I have no followers at this point and I’m not likely to follow anyone else, I’ll just let it sit there. I’m certainly not going to start chirping about on twitter. Why I reactivated it, I’m not really sure since I have no intention in really using it, maybe it’s a unconscious goal to be indoctrinated and be part of the PC cool people crowd because I obviously go out of my way to strive for that kind of acceptance.

    On the other hand; I did choose to create a Zoltar Speaks twitter account to follow a few politicians just to make it a little easier to check out what some politicians are willing to tweet.

    Be honest; am I feeding/enabling the monster that is Twitter by doing this?

  5. dragin_dragon

    Don’t have it, don’t want it. Stupid program.

    Re: Confidentiality. My wife, who was insatiably curious, learned to hate the phrase “I can’t really talk about the case”. Professional ethics, and, of course, HIPPA precluded sharing any identifying information, and many times that included case details. If a case was bugging me, I could and would talk to her about WHY it was bugging me, but that was as far as I was willing to go.

  6. JP

    Jack this is a good article. I am in the position where my wife is very involved in my work (I am a minister). I think there is something to be said about wanting to defend your spouse from unfair attacks. When I lost my last job, my wife went up to the leaders and personally told them they were wrong. I know that doesn’t give people a free pass to share personal information. However, I also think the need to “do something” is strong to resist.

  7. Emily

    I agree with you on an even deeper level regarding Twitter. I tried to use it for professional reasons a while ago (I had a book to promote) and I found I couldn’t do it: I have nothing of interest to say that can be said in that short a space. I think anyone who is forcing themselves to think in tiny blurbs is absolutely training themselves to be dumber, to strip away nuance and ignore explanation, and to base their reaction on pure kneejerk emotion because there’s not even space for anything else. That’s fine for, say, live tweeting a sporting event, but for anything else (including even analyzing the sporting event afterwards) it’s without a doubt making you dumber.

  8. Rip

    I avoid Twitter, but I have Asperger’s syndrome and have enough trouble not offending people because I lack a filter! What is it with all these idiots are they just not diagnosed!

  9. Keeping things from your wife is problematic. It took us 25 years to settle with ‘I cannot talk about that’ such that feelings are not hurt.

    That the wife was stupid enough to expose her husband is remarkable. I wonder if he married her for her IQ?

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