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Should We Care About a Suspected ‘Burner’ Account Linked to the Colts?

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The last 24 hours has been a whirlwind of weird. If you’ve followed the developments of Bryan Colangelo, then you’re well aware of the predicament he’s currently in. If you haven’t, here’s the short-and-skinny of it.

The Ringer’s Ben Detrick put up a story yesterday detailing a source-based investigation on how the 76ers’ president of basketball operations apparently used multiple ‘burner’ accounts on Twitter to connect with Philly media, but not just to follow their stories. It appears that his use of these accounts was to publicize previously unknown health issues of players, to criticize some of the team’s top talent and coaching staff as well as to prop himself up.

Since the fall out from this story connected to an NBA franchise, similar connections have been made to a couple NFL teams and suspected burner accounts. It seems that a couple of accounts have mysteriously gone dark since the release of Detrick’s story, namely an alleged scout account associated with the Indianapolis Colts and one apparently tied to the front office of the Washington Redskins.

In light of these developments, it makes sense that anyone who is tied to a professional franchise — and sitting behind an anonymous handle — would be scrambling to delete these accounts. Get rid of any obvious evidence, right? We regularly find that the outrage that follows any major story, such as the one on Colangelo, can lead to quick responses from other entities if they find similar issues. The domino effect is real, but this particular story is unprecedented.

These type of accounts, though, are not abnormal by any means. We’ve heard from various team officials, and coaching staffs over the years that they do use anonymous accounts to scour social media in order to keep an eye on players, other happenings around the league and topics of discussion among their respective fan base.

The point where it crosses a line is when the account in question is used for reasons described in the Ringer’s story. In other words, any information going out is bad. Being used purely as a ‘spy’ isn’t an indictment on anyone. It’s far more common than any of us likely realize.

At least for now, what we know about the account that has presumed to have been linked to someone in the scouting department of the Colts, is that the account wasn’t used for any nefarious purposes and has been described as “pretty mundane.”

While we don’t have any confirmation of the handle used, the intent of the user or that it is what it was what it was suspected of being in the first place, there wasn’t any damaging information released from the account.

So, should we care? No.

If anything, using these fake accounts are a tool to acquire information they may not be able to attain by using their personal accounts, nor would they want to attempt to gain information with those accounts. This is, however, what these individuals are getting paid to do. In order to be good at their job they need to search the doldrums of social media without attaching their name to an account. Remember, people are searching for them too, reading their tweets and posts.

While it is —now— fun to search for these accounts, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of them are purely used to gather information, not to spew organizational/player secrets or act in the fashion of a political twitter bot. On the other hand, in the coming days, don’t be surprised if we begin to hear about more of them around professional leagues, as well as some of them being far more active than their respective organizations would be comfortable with.