In the wake of this week’s ridiculous/hilarious/absurd controversy involving 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo (or his wife) and his “numerous” burner Twitter accounts (and uh, comments section accounts), we started thinking about other ridiculous social media controversies from recent years.
We asked our staff about these controversies, and they came up with some fantastic ones. But here are some of the controversies that they *didn’t* mention, many of which you may have forgotten about.
–A Manchester United fan quit his full-time job to start a Manchester United Twitter account. He quit the Twitter account after five days.
–Bill Simmons, while still working for ESPN, went scorched earth on Mike & Mike.
–Keith Law and Curt Schilling got into an argument about evolution, and Law (but not Schilling) was suspended by ESPN.
–The Christmas Temecula beef, which was less “controversial” and more “completely amazing, hilarious, and over the top”.
–A fan-run Washington Redskins account was actually run by the Washington Redskins themselves.
–Unique Brissett turned himself into a highly-sought after college football recruit for about…I dunno, 24 hours or so, before his story fell apart.
–An MLB blogger was fired after harassing women on Twitter. It was then revealed that the blogger had been writing under an assumed identity for years.
–A Macedonian man convinced Martina Navratilova (among others) that he was a tennis prodigy. He was not a tennis prodigy.
–Barstool Sports fired Michael Rapaport after a ridiculous meltdown that saw him go after the company and its fans *while still employed by Barstool*.
Andrew Bucholtz: There have been so many absurd sports stories involving Twitter, but the one that stands out to me comes from September 2015, involving then-Redskins GM Scot McCloughan, his wife Jessica, ESPN’s Dianna Russini, and the Redskins’ PR office. Our “Wife of Redskins’ GM apologizes for accusing ESPN reporter of sleeping with GM, comments Redskins’ PR denied” headline tells much of the story. A Twitter account that seemed associated with Jessica sent tweets at Russini including “Please tell us how many BJs you had to give to get this story” and at someone else saying “I’m pretty sure this is info coming from my husband to his new side chick (dianna).”
And while a GM’s wife tweeting that he’d cheated on her with a reporter would be wild enough in its own right, Redskins’ senior vice president of communications Tony Wyllie (who has a long history of PR missteps) made the story even crazier, calling Black Sports Online’s Robert Littal to insist the Twitter account was fake and that NFL security would work to shut it down. Not long after that, ESPN put out a statement denying Jessica’s accusations and defending Russini’s reporting, and the Redskins reversed their story, admitted Jessica sent the tweets, and sent out an apology from her.
— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) September 3, 2015
Well, asking someone to “tell us how many BJs you had to give to get this story” is a hitherto unseen definition of “the utmost respect.” Oh, and despite all this, the McCloughans remained married, and Jessica again created Twitter controversy in March 2017 around the team suddenly sending Scot home from the combine and blaming his absence on a death in the family, throwing out a tweet with the rings he earned with the Packers.
Scot was eventually fired, with the team hinting at alcohol issues but players suggesting this was a power play from team president Bruce Allen, and while he personally took the high road and didn’t say much, Jessica continued to trash and subtweet the team all summer. He’s recently been working as a personnel consultant with the Browns, and she’s now retweeting comments about how great he is, so all’s well that ends well, I guess?
Matt Clapp: Ralph. 110% Ralph.
That’s of course actually former longtime MLB general manager Jim Bowden, but his Twitter disaster in 2014 was so bad that it’s permanently gotten him the name Ralph from many.
Bowden fell for a fake Joel Sherman account that said Marlon Byrd was traded from the Phillies to the Yankees. Because Bowden wanted to look like he was the one breaking news, he tweeted “Yankees acquire Marlon Byrd.”
And when he realized that we all realized he fell for a fake account to break his own news, he totally panicked. Bowden deleted his Twitter, changed his screen name, and had a Twitter egg as the avatar, with his name simply “Ralph.”
I just crack up thinking of the scene here. Bowden probably started screaming and running around his house/office, maybe chucked a cell phone or laptop.
Had he just admitted he was duped by a fake account, everyone would’ve forgotten about it within a week, if not by the end of the day. But the entire process he went through to try to hide his mistake made it an unforgettable disaster, and I thank him for providing the comedy.
Joe Lucia: So many bizarre social media incidents have popped up in the sports world over the last few years, as you’d expect. But the weirdness involving former adult film actress Mia Khalifa and Fansided had next to nothing to do with sports, resulted in someone losing their job, and (of course) involved a fake columnist trolling the site’s readership and Khalifa herself, who was writing for the site at the time.
Essentially, Fansided created a satirical take on a Phil Mushnick style columnist, naming him Burt Gertson and claiming that his work was 100% real and not actually satire. After a month of articles no one noticed, “Gertson” wrote about Khalifa, she seemingly got pretty irritated, and the whole thing spiraled out of control. Fansided editor-in-chief Jim Cavan first claimed Gertson was real, then backpedaled and admitted it was satire, then was fired by Time Inc a couple of days later.
Confused yet? Good, you should be – the whole incident made zero sense in both the short and long term, and the *former adult film actress* came out of the mess looking the best.
Alex Putterman: Maybe I’m falling victim to recency bias, but I really enjoyed the Kevin Durant burner Twitter fiasco. It wasn’t only the fact of a burner account, which we’ve seen before and since, but also who was using the account. Durant has long come off as the NBA’s most sensitive star, and the idea that he was anonymously duking it out with trolls was just perfect. It was also how Durant’s burner account was exposed. There was something almost magical about the moment everyone saw Durant’s third-person tweet defending himself against and trashing Russell Westbrook, when we all thought the same thing at once: Oh my god, he’s using a burner Twitter account.
Unlike with Bryan Colangelo, there was nothing sinister about Durant’s messages. It was just purely hilarious and satisfying.
Jay Rigdon: It’s been five years since the world learned that Manti Te’o’s supposedly dead girlfriend Lennay Kekua didn’t actually exist, but if anything the story feels even more unbelievable with the benefit of hindsight. That an inescapable sports narrative turned out to be an example of rampant catfishing remains a fine example of both the dangers of social media and the failings of media as a whole. But Tiwtter is where it all started, with Te’o thinking he “met” Kekua via Twitter, and continued to keep up contact through that medium. Which makes sense, obviously; when you’re making up an identity to fool an incredibly gullible college football star, Twitter has plenty of advantages over, say, Skype.
RIP Lennay, whose story of being in a car accident and then being diagnosed with leukemia and then dying was repeated by just about every national media outlet. You were far more famous than plenty of people who actually existed.
Matt Yoder: Two words – Sarah. Phillips. To me this was the original insane sports Twitter story but it seems like a lifetime ago because it happened all the way back in 2012. Twitter was so much different back then as the social media platform was still feeling out its place in the world. Here was a rising ESPN columnist not only exposed as a fraud, but also as someone involved in various schemes to try to make money off people through social media. Phillips was connected to a bizarre network of social media accounts, including a Willy Wonka parody account. To me, it really pulled the curtain back on the underbelly of social media and what could be possible if Twitter was used nefariously…at least in the age before Roseanne.