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Friday, June 15, 2018

The Sad Saga of The Ringer's Gleeful Takedown of Bryan Colangelo

The website The Ringer is not merely content to bury Bryan Colangelo's career (or at least the Philadelphia portion of it) but is also pouring dirt on the grave.

A few weeks ago, The Ringer broke the story that several anonymous Twitter accounts that could be linked to Colangelo had posted information critical of Sam Hinkie and of various 76er players. The 76ers hired an independent law firm to conduct an investigation and that investigation determined that Colangelo's wife had made the offensive posts. Although Colangelo denied any knowledge of his wife's activity and declared that he did not agree with what she had posted, the two-time NBA Executive of the Year who had rebuilt the 76ers into a contender in the wake of Hinkie's infamous and disastrous tanking "Process" resigned under pressure.

Now The Ringer has posted a second article that essentially states that everything good that happened for the 76ers last season was a result of Hinkie's brilliance, while any questionable decisions came from Colangelo. Specifically, The Ringer accused Colangelo of failing to resolve the "logjam" of big men on the roster and of choosing Markelle Fultz with the first pick in the 2017 draft over the alleged objections of various unnamed 76ers' staffers. The Ringer conveniently failed to note that the 76ers were a losing team every season under Hinkie and only became a contender after Colangelo remade the culture and the roster in the wake of Hinkie's departure. The Ringer also left out that Hinkie whiffed on the opportunity to draft Kristaps Porzingis, Myles Turner or Devin Booker in 2015 (Hinkie selected Jahlil Okafor) and that Hinkie chose Nerlens Noel in 2013 instead of Giannis Antetokounmpo or C.J. McCollum.

Thus, The Ringer left out the "minor" detail that the aforementioned "logjam" of Okafor and Noel was created by Hinkie's poor drafting and unwillingness to get rid of either big man. Colangelo inherited a mess and rapidly turned it into a playoff team, yet The Ringer proposes that Hinkie should get the credit.

Not only is that a bizarre take, but it is an odd thing to post right after Colangelo resigned.

Sirius XM NBA Radio's Frank Isola made some excellent points regarding Colangelo's situation. First, Isola noted that the burner Twitter accounts in question hardly had any subscribers and he joked that Colangelo's wife could have reached a larger audience by opening up a window and shouting than by posting to a feed that few people follow. Second, Isola pointed out that it is commonplace for NBA executives and other insiders to feed information to media members, who then disseminate that information to a large audience. Third, Isola stated that it is ironic that Colangelo was forced out because his wife leaked team information and now The Ringer is posting an anti-Colangelo story filled with information that could only have been leaked to The Ringer by team sources. "Where is the investigation of that?" Isola asked.

Isola's broadcast partner Brian Scalabrine added this observation: the Boston Celtics require each member of the personnel department to write out their preferences before each draft, so no one can later claim 20/20 hindsight regarding the team's selections. If people within the 76ers organization want to throw Colangelo under the bus, let them step up publicly and prove with written time-stamped notes that they did not support the Fultz selection.

Isola joked that apparently Hinkie is responsible for every good decision that the 76ers have made--even the ones that took place after his departure--and Isola said that The Ringer's piling on with Colangelo is starting to seem personal. Isola could not fathom what The Ringer's motive is but I have an idea. The Ringer is Bill Simmons' brainchild. Simmons (1) loves "stat gurus" like Hinkie and (2) is on the record stating that he could do a better job than most NBA executives. Taking down a respected executive like Colangelo while simultaneously rewriting Hinkie's career in a favorable fashion is right up Simmons' alley.

There is little doubt that Colangelo could have and should have handled the Twitter account situation better, but The Ringer's coverage of Colangelo reeks of personal animus, a hidden agenda and double standards (Isola called the hand-wringing about the tweets while ignoring the more widespread leaking of information "fake outrage"). Isola is right to call out The Ringer for its biased coverage of Colangelo and Hinkie.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:11 AM

12 comments

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12 Comments:

At Friday, June 15, 2018 7:29:00 AM, Blogger jackson888 said...

David,

Interesting take on that issue. I agree with you about The Ringer's coverage of the whole saga.
As it was unfolding, I was waiting for articles to come out to explain The Ringer' s motivation. That really piqued my interest.

 
At Saturday, June 16, 2018 12:31:00 PM, Blogger beep said...

it's just disgusting... and a reason I avoid most media nowadays

 
At Sunday, June 17, 2018 10:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Is Colangelo innocent or something? Or should he still have retained his job?

The real question seems why the 76ers decided to get rid of Hinkie, not what The Ringer thinks. If it's commonplace for executives to feed info, then why did the 76ers think what happened if Colangelo was so bad?

Not saying whatever The Ringer did is good journalism or not. But, I've never heard of a GM losing his job like this, but could be wrong. And I realize he wasn't fired, but there's not much reason to resign usually if you aren't going to get fired. The 76ers probably gave him a way out to save some embarrassment. Sure sounds like Colangelo really messed up.

The Ringer might have failed to mention some things, but is there any article out there that mentions everything for each side to an argument? Do you mention everything in your articles? Even if you wanted to, there's a limit to how much you can write.

 
At Monday, June 18, 2018 6:45:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Beep:

I agree, on both counts.

 
At Monday, June 18, 2018 6:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Colangelo did not commit a crime. His wife, without his knowledge, posted various things on "burner" Twitter accounts. As Isola noted, it is commonplace for NBA executives to "leak" information to various media members and this leaked information usually gets much wider exposure than those "burner" Twitter accounts ever did. Of course, if someone were caught "leaking" then that person might lose his job because this is not considered appropriate, but it is also standard operating procedure.

The first question is why did the Ringer focus so much attention on Colangelo? As Isola noted, the second question is why is the subsequent Ringer coverage so biased for Hinkie and against Colangelo? This suggests bias. Isola was mystified regarding the basis of the bias but I am less mystified.

This is not about mentioning "everything for every argument." It is about being fair and about treating people equally. The Ringer singled out Colangelo (or Colangelo's wife) for something that is standard practice in NBA circles (at least according to Isola, who has been covering the league for over 20 years). Then, the Ringer posted a second article that is factually inaccurate, blaming Colangelo for mistakes that were actually made by Hinkie.

 
At Monday, June 18, 2018 4:05:00 PM, Blogger Nick Feldman said...

Forgive me if I've misunderstood the facts (I think I only read the initial piece), but are we certain it was Colangelo's wife and that she's not merely taking the bullet for him? My understanding is that the whole thing started when an AI basically recognized that all five accounts (including one that Colangelo himself copped to running) behaved extremely similarly, up to and including word choice. It is likewise my understanding, given that all five went silent almost instantly when Philadelphia was told about only two of them by the Ringer, that regardless of whether Colangelo or his wife were running the accounts, he must have been aware of the activity enough to warn her when the spit hit the fan.

I am likewise under the impression that the "leaks" went beyond normal media leaks and included pointed criticism and attacks on players. That's an easy way to get fired.

I am not defending Hinkie or the second Ringer piece here but it seems fair to me to castigate Colangelo; the absolute rosiest interpretation of the available data is that he was aware of his wife's activities and gave her a heads up to stop when the heat came; at bare minimum, he's complicit by inaction in conduct detrimental to the team. Of course, that interpretation assumes that he and his wife behave similarly enough online to fool an AI; to me, it seems much more likely that Colangelo is responsible for all the accounts and his wife is merely taking the blame to try and save his career (or at least, his future career prospects).

 
At Monday, June 18, 2018 5:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm still confused. Why are you more focused on The Ringer writing these 'bad' stories rather than Colangelo jeopardizing his team? And why is Isola or whoever making these excuses for Colangelo as 'commonplace,' and it's only bad if you get caught. It's like the first 100 drivers are speeding down the interstate, but the 101th person is the one who gets caught, it doesn't make it right. What Colangelo did must've been egregious enough to warrant his dismissal. I'm not saying he committed a crime, but whatever the 76ers thought he did must've been bad enough to dismiss him. I don't buy the commonplace argument, especially now that Colangelo is no longer the 76ers GM.

I'm sure there was some bias, as this is the case with almost any article, there's been bound to be at least a little. But, it makes sense to focus Colangelo since he's no longer the GM. Now, talking up Hinkie is an entirely different matter. Colangelo messed up, right? Or do you think he should still be the 76ers GM?

 
At Tuesday, June 19, 2018 12:13:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

My understanding is that the independent investigation determined that Colangelo did not make the tweets or know about them; they were posted by his wife. I think that his resignation was appropriate given that it is obvious that, at a minimum, he told her information about the team, the league and players that he should not have been telling her.

My point, echoing Isola, is that the "fake outrage" about this story is odd, considering that it is standard operating procedure in the NBA for information to be leaked all of the time. Some of the tweets were out of bounds but it really seems like The Ringer set out to make Colangelo a target as opposed to addressing the larger issue (if, indeed, The Ringer is even that concerned about the issue). As soon as Colangelo was out the door, The Ringer was focused on unfairly bashing his decisions as an executive, which had nothing to do with the "scandal." A more logical followup would have been to investigate if any other teams have similar problems. Isola feels that The Ringer targeted Colangelo while deifying Hinkie and I agree.

 
At Tuesday, June 19, 2018 12:24:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I stated very clearly that Colangelo "could have and should have" conducted himself better.

You are right that anyone who breaks a law is wrong and should be punished, even if other lawbreakers escaped punishment.

However, if it is a local custom that police do not give tickets to drivers who are 5 mph or less over the limit but then they give a ticket to one unpopular fellow who drove four mph over the limit, that reeks of bias. That is Isola's point and I agree with him. The second Ringer article makes it very clear that there is a larger agenda behind the Colangelo takedown.

Is The Ringer going to be on the lookout for every NBA executive who leaks news that should not be leaked? Or is The Ringer only interested in non-"stat guru" executives may have indirectly leaked information?

Isola's other point was that hardly anyone followed the "burner" Twitter accounts. Those tweets were largely unread until The Ringer came along--but every day some NBA executive leaks something to curry favor with a media member and that little nugget ends up being read/heard by thousands or million of people. What causes more damage and has more of an impact? It's like The Ringer investigated jaywalking in a town that has a high carjacking rate.

The Ringer's coverage just lacks balance, fairness and common sense, which is not surprising considering who founded it. Bill Simmons began his career as an unabashed Boston homer and his work often displays clear bias. This is just another example.

 
At Tuesday, June 19, 2018 12:17:00 PM, Blogger Nathan Wright said...

Nick - there were some other bits of evidence that ruled out Colangelo or tended to implicate his wife. One of the accounts followed someone who tweeted only in Italian (she is Italian). Also many of the tweets used sort of irregular English consistent with someone who is a non-native English speaker. Also one of the accounts turned out to have posted Tweets while Colangelo was giving a press conference. And also again, the password-recovery phone numbers (last 2 digits) were consistent with the wife's cell phone. (It's a bit ridiculous that I know so much about this story.)

 
At Wednesday, June 20, 2018 7:17:00 PM, Blogger Nick Feldman said...

Nathan-

Thank you. I was unaware that Colangelo had been somewhat exonerated (though it still seems likely that he was aware of the accounts, given how quickly they were taken down).

David-

I am not sure that I see the Ringer as especially biased; the piece itself may be, but I've seen them kill Philly several times over the years for the Okafor pick, among other Hinkie-isms. Some of their writers bought into "The Process," others didn't.

It's also much more an editorial site than a journalistic one; opinions are their bread and butter, but they very rarely break stories (although they did break this one, but only because an anonymous source approached them directly). As such, it's a bit silly to expect them to hold to the standards of proper journalism; it's quite literally not their job. May as well ask for objective, even-handed reporting from First Take or Fox News.

I do not agree with many--heck, most--of the Ringer's opinions, but I don't think it is irresponsible, unfair, or unethical for them to post these kind of stories. They've been doing it for years and it's what works for them.

I know you dislike Simmons, but I don't see the Ringer as terribly out of line in this case; yes, they're roasting Colangelo... but that's their brand, and literally their job. This week alone they've likewise taken potshots at Dwight Howard, Kanye West, Phil Collins, just about ever bad player taken in the last ten NBA drafts, and about half the front offices in the league (this last on their draft preview).

 
At Wednesday, June 20, 2018 9:52:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Maybe you are right. Simmons has a very uneven record. The 30 for 30 series is great (but I don't know how much input he actually had on the final product) but much of what he says or writes is ridiculous and/or biased. He was horrible as a TV personality.

I respect Isola a lot and he is a long-time beat writer, so if he thinks that The Ringer's coverage of Colangelo is out of line he is probably right. My points were (1) I agree with Isola's take and (2) while Isola is mystified as to why The Ringer might be biased against Colangelo and/or for Hinkie, I suspect that Simmons' presence/voice/influence explains a lot.

 

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