Remember when Philadelphia 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo resigned in June after being linked to anonymous Twitter accounts that criticized players while revealing medical details and other internal information? (For the record, Colangelo said it was his wife running the accounts.) Well, there’s now a story hitting some similar notes in the Canadian Football League, even if the punishment is much milder.
As per TSN’s Dave Naylor and Farhan Lalji, the B.C. Lions quietly suspended director of player personnel and player development Torey Hunter for 90 days in November following a CFL investigation that concluded Hunter was behind an account using inside information to criticize the Edmonton Eskimos, the team he previously worked for as a regional scout (under former Edmonton GM Ed Hervey, who took over as B.C.’s GM after the 2017 season and then brought Hunter in). Here’s more from the TSN piece:
The Twitter account in question first drew suspicion from the Eskimos in the spring of 2018 when it began responding to official Edmonton team news with inside information that was both critical and contradictory to the team’s messaging.
The Eskimos informed the league of their concern, which then launched an investigation into the matter.
…Lions’ president Rick LeLacheur suspended Hunter for 90 days. The suspension comes to an end on Jan. 31.
Hervey was cleared by the league of any involvement.
“I was very disappointed when I found out it was Torey,” said Hervey. “I think this was very petty on both sides and something I would have preferred got handled with a phone call instead of an investigation and suspension. But as far as I’m concerned it’s over and the BC Lions are moving forward.”
There are a whole lot of unanswered questions there, including just what account this was and what information Hunter was revealing with it. Information “critical and contradictory to the team’s messaging” is quite a line, and that raises questions about what the Eskimos have actually been telling the public if a former staffer’s tweets can prompt this kind of response from them. And it also seems to be pretty heavy overkill for the Eskimos to go to the league here, and for the league to run an investigation on who’s sending critical tweets. But we don’t know what those tweets were; maybe there was something to be actually concerned about.
We’re seeing more and more burner account stories popping up in sports, from “contrived” accounts attacking papers that criticized the Ottawa Senators to Kevin Durant and Skip Bayless accidentally revealing fake accounts that complimented themselves and (in Durant’s case) criticized former teammates. Most of the actual comments there aren’t anything to take too seriously, though; the Colangelo situation stood out because of how it revealed private team information and medical details, a long way from just some basic criticisms. (Granted, few people took those details seriously at the time with them coming from anonymous accounts, but still.) If Hunter’s comments did reveal anything like that, maybe that explains the need for a league investigation and a suspension. But if he was just lobbing criticisms “contradictory to the team’s messaging,” that seems less problematic. Without discussion of the tweets in question, it’s hard to say for sure if the teams and the CFL office acted appropriately here.
Maybe the most amazing thing here is how this came out so long after the suspension. The Eskimos’ organization and the league office somehow managed to keep what sounds like a long-running investigation out of the media spotlight, and then the Lions suspended Hunter in early November and no one found out anything about it until now? That’s remarkably good secrecy from both teams and the league office. And it makes you wonder if there have been other instances of sports figures being punished for burner accounts, ones that media and fans never found out about.