Anna Horford, sister of 5-time NBA All-Star Al Horford, takes pride in being a passionate, outspoken fan of her brother so when the news of the Philadelphia 76ers trading Horford to the Oklahoma City Thunder broke, Anna’s phone wouldn’t stop lighting up.
For over 13 seasons, she’s been an avid supporter of her brother Al; who’s the oldest of five. However, Anna has, undoubtedly, the most boisterous social media presence of the siblings.
Compared to Jon, Maria, and Josh, no one can cause a stir quite like Anna. Her phone, within an hour, was riddled with hundreds of unread texts and direct messages, via Twitter. For Anna, it didn’t come as a shock.
Sports has a way of making people uncontrollably exuberant, and defensive, especially, in this case, when it involves family. What Anna didn’t anticipate was for Sixers fans to cross the line – the one that invisibly stands between a team’s diehard fanbase and a family member of the player that fanbase represents.
After Horford received countless pieces of hate mail from 76ers fans, including death threats, racist remarks, and threats of sexual assault; she sounded off on Philadelphia, and in the process, earned national headlines the following day. Anna, the host of CLNS Media’s “Horford Happy Hour” podcast, agreed to an interview with me.
As a fellow CLNS Media reporter, I wanted to grant Anna the opportunity to tell her entire side of the story in this tell-all, Heavy.com exclusive.
Josue: When you first found out that Al was traded to Oklahoma City, what was the initial reaction, and then tell me how your notifications started blowing up on Twitter?
Anna: We kind of knew he was going to get traded. He wasn’t necessarily the best fit for Philly and Philly wasn’t the best fit for him. We just didn’t know where he would be going but yeah, it was interesting the second that Woj dropped the bomb my mentions started blowing up. Philly fans: “See you later. Get out of here, bitch!” People were; they were going off.
It was like all this pent-up anger and aggression towards my brother and it’s like, I don’t know, you can be angry at his style of play and how the team played this year but you can’t really s*** on him as a person. He keeps to himself, he’s pretty quiet. So the hate that we got just from that news breaking was really overwhelming.
Josue: Would you say the majority of the messages were targeted towards you or were they mostly towards your brother, Al?
Anna: Most of it was hating on me and as a side note “your brother sucks, glad he’s out of Philly” or “he’s a bum” or whatever. A lot of them went hand-in-hand (laughs) so it was like “you’re a whore, we hate your brother.” It was like one after another, they kind of went together and attacked both of us. I’m vocal on Twitter, I know I’m not an innocent party but at the same time, something that really confused me was Philly fans were like “you’ve been s****ing on us all year, we know the Horfords aren’t happy in Philly,” blah, blah, blah.
Go back and look through my tweets. I did not s*** on Philly. I expressed frustration with the coach and, at times, frustration with how they were playing Al because they weren’t playing him the way he should have been played. They weren’t utilizing him the way they should have been utilizing him so of course, I’m going to have that criticism. I even did that in Boston, I even called out fans when I was in Boston, you guys can go back and look at those tweets, too.
To act like I’d been s****ing on Philly all season is a lie. I’m always supportive of my brother and the teams that he’s on. Philly didn’t like the Horfords because we refused to s*** on Boston, we refused to talk badly about Boston. That’s all they wanted and we didn’t do that so they didn’t like us.
Anna Horford On 76ers Fan Tweets: ‘Do You Realize They Just Wished Death On Me And My Family?’
Josue: In 2019, when Al Horford agreed to join the 76ers how Philly fans react towards the news?
Anna: Oh my God, they were so stoked. They were like “ha-ha, Boston. We got one of your key pieces.” “One of the guys that give us the most trouble in the playoffs and we took him from you, ha-ha” and “that sucks for them, it’s great for us.” It was overwhelmingly positive and it was more like in-your-face, Boston, more than anything else.
Josue: So, when did all of that change (laughs)? Was it when Al got traded last week or was it on-and-off throughout the course of the regular season?
Anna: I would say it was a few games in. Their fans, though, are brutal. I know they’re not just brutal to Al, they’re brutal to everyone, including Embiid, including Simmons. They’re very tough of their own guys, which just seems so miserable to me. For me, my whole thing in Boston was getting the #BelieveinBoston hashtag going and I know Sully’s Brand reps that, too and just like, bringing that to the forefront like ‘(Expletive) the negativity, we’re going to go out and be a great team every season.’ I wanted to have that vibe with Philly but everyone was just so negative from the jump and regardless if players are active on social media, Al’s not very active on social media, they can still feel that.
They can still hear it, they can see it and fans need to realize that if someone doesn’t feel loved or appreciated, they’re not going to want to play for you. Basketball is just not physical, it’s mental, too. You’re booing your own players? What do you think that’s going to do to their mentality? It was really interesting that they were negative from the start, never really gave them a chance.
Anna Horford On The City Of Boston: ‘Al Wasn’t Perfect In Boston But It Felt Like Home’
Josue: What did the city of Boston mean to the Horfords?
Anna: The city of Boston meant so much to us just because of the way we were embraced and the culture there is just, you know if you work hard if you’re a team player if you give your all to the team; we’re going to love you and Boston fully did that. They fully embraced us, they embraced me on Twitter, especially. My siblings have a bond with “Weird Celtics Twitter” and stuff, just the people; the fans. When I would go there the people would be so positive and be so nice and they all loved Al and Al wasn’t perfect in Boston but it felt like home so it was seriously like going through a breakup when Al left (laughs). It was tough.
Josue: Let’s go back to the day Al was traded to OKC one more time and focus on the hate messages you received from Philly fans and then take me through your emotions when you saw your name printed at the top of a New York Post and Complex headline. What was that like?
Anna: My first thought was, ‘Oh (expletive), my parents are going to see this (laughs)’ and they’re going to be like, ‘Anna’s at it again, great here we go.’ But no, I’m pretty used to it by now. People have picked up my tweets for stories the past couple of years and it doesn’t really bother me, sometimes I’m like, ‘Is that really newsworthy? Why did you even print that?’ But, I don’t know, it’s good that I get my voice out there. I feel like I have an audience I can speak to and most of them appreciate what I have to say. Of course, it brings in lots of trolls, as well, so you get a bunch of negative feedback, as well but that’s just something that comes with the territory.
Josue: How do you feel about the double-standard? The fact that random people, and of course I’m going off of the screenshots you provided, proof you, yourself posted, can say some of the most hateful things and not be held accountable. Meanwhile, if you respond, in-defense; it’s news. It’s much different for you, right?
Anna: It’s really maddening because people see my tweets or see me clap-back at someone and say, “that was unnecessary” or “that was rude” and I’m like, ‘Do you realize they just wished death on me and my family?’ And you’re commenting towards me instead of the person who sent the initial tweet? That doesn’t make any sense. Anytime I’m on social media and I clap back at someone it’s always in defense of myself, or my friends, or my family.
I never go out and find an account and say ‘you’re ugly,’ you know? Or the kind of things that are said to me. It is really, really frustrating. If I didn’t screenshot that (expletive), people don’t believe that it’s that bad and they don’t believe that it happens. The really bad death threats and stuff I email to myself and then keep them on file.
Josue: Have you ever felt physically threatened? I mean, obviously, the majority of these fans are based in Philly but has that ever crossed your mind when you attend games?
Anna: The only thing that really bugged me and made me think, ‘(Expletive) I have to take some self-defense classes or something’ because there was this group of men who had this “rape list” of women they wanted to find and attack and sexually assault. It was me and a few other social media personalities (on the list) so that was a little worrisome only because of the extremeness of it all. To make a whole list of women that you want to sexually assault and spread it around with your friends and think that it’s funny. The fact that it happens to women every day; it’s not funny, it’s not OK.
Mostly, it’s just mentally exhausting to a certain point but I do laugh at a lot of it. As you know, I do block a lot of it out because these people are miserable and if that’s what they’re wasting their time on then they’re leading pretty sad lives.
Josue: Tell everyone about “Horford Happy Hour,” tell everyone about how the podcast came together. What inspired you to start this podcast?
Anna: “Horford Happy Hour” kind of came to mind back when Al was on the Celtics and I was gaining steam with followers and people really loved that I was really outspoken and that I had a lot to say. A lot of my followers were like “please start a podcast” so initially I was going to start my own website and start a podcast on my own, and then CLNS Media reached out, you reached out if I’m correct.
Josue: I did, I definitely did (laughs). I was like ‘We need to get on this before someone else does.’
Anna: Yes! (laughs). So, you reached out and it could not have been more perfect timing because I was literally about to launch a podcast, myself. So, I thought if I can do it with an already established network in Boston, a city that I love, a city that is growing to love our family, why not? So, it was like a match made in heaven. Three seasons later, and here we are.
I actually just kicked off a five-part mini-series called “Taboo Topics” and I’ve got different guests every week and it’s been about getting into the real nitty-gritty of topics that society doesn’t want to discuss. I’ve been getting lots of great feedback so it’s really been great, I really enjoy it and I hope to continue “Horford Happy Hour” for a while.
The Horford Happy Hour podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.