I’m a public relations manager by trade. It’s my job to ensure that the organization I work for is appropriately represented in the industries we operate in, and elsewhere. And so, from a public relations perspective, I can say without a doubt in my mind that the Philadelphia 76ers front office is a dumpster fire right now.
I specifically reference the front office because I have nothing but positive things to say about the coaching and play on the court. Without their two best players, the 76ers are churning out wins and pulse-pounding performances. TJ McConnell is playing so far above his ceiling he might be breaching the atmosphere. Meaningful, enjoyable basketball is back in Philadelphia, and I couldn’t be happier.
But it’s the circus taking place off the court that has 76ers brass under fire.
I’ll start with the Ben Simmons return date saga. Shortly after he was injured, speculation began as to whether he was even going to play this season. It was quickly silenced by 76ers brass that a late January return was likely. But here we are in mid-February, with nothing to show for. No solid updates have been given. I’m not a doctor, but I do know that a jones fracture typically takes 6-8 weeks to heal. And now, nearly 22 weeks after his injury, Simmons hasn’t even started 5-on-5’s. I don’t have a team of trainers taking care of me night and day and even I could be back on the court playing my mediocre basketball. And now yesterday, we learned (via Keith Pompey, a reporter and not a member of the 76ers front office) that the reason Ben Simmons hasn’t been progressing could be the fact that his foot might not be totally healed.
There’s something wrong here and it’s part of a much bigger problem.
Which brings me to my next point of frustration, the Joel Embiid injury. For an organization that seems to pride itself on how cautious they are, letting Embiid play with a partially-torn meniscus and bone bruise just because it was a nationally televised game is asinine. And the silence from the front office was deafening. Almost immediately they let speculation start. For weeks the front office said he was fine, just a little swelling. Then it was a bone bruise. And then, after the organization got scooped by Derek Bodner, it was a bone bruise and a partially torn meniscus. What sort of crackerjack operation is being run here? I could get more facts out of Kellyann Conway and Sean Spicer.
And on top of this, what frustrates me the most, is the way the front office has completely mishandled Brett Brown. Each night, Brown speaks to the media, with (what has become absurdly clear) no details at all, forcing him to talk out of his rear end. For a man who has been the consummate soldier through the years of the tank, they owe him so much more than this.
Byan Colangelo has been explicit that he wanted to run a transparent organization (his father Jerry said this exact phrase when the league forced him on the 76ers), but from that very moment on has done nothing but make things murkier. The modus operandi of the 76ers brass has been to remain steadfastly silent on some of the more significant events of their tenure while raising ticket prices mid-season amidst a spike in fandom.
I’ve always been trained to control the message, get ahead of the story, and avoid being scooped when possible. In neither of these aforementioned instances have the 76ers seemed even remotely interested in controlling the message or getting ahead of the story. Instead, they’ve been comfortable with utter radio silence at best, and the dissemination of misinformation at their worst.
Most frustrating is that the 76ers front office should have more respect and gratitude towards their fan base than any other organization in the league. They’ve put fans through season upon season of intentional dreck with the promise that it would get better. And the fans stuck with them. And their reward? Silence and lies.
Truth will out, always. Derek Bodner can attest to that. Keith Pompey can attest to that. In this day and age, misinformation and lies may work in the White House (I’m joking, they don’t), but they should have absolutely no place in sports. Fanbases are not mushrooms. You cannot feed them shit and keep them in the dark, Bryan. It doesn’t work that way.
This team has gotten their act together. It’s time the front office does too.