Here’s a weird one.

The Philadelphia Inquirer published on Thursday afternoon a story titled “Group calls Sixers plans for new arena ‘inconsistent’ with international human-rights law.” It was live for what seemed like a few minutes, then came down, and has remained down ever since. Written by Jeff Gammage, the article focused on a letter issued by “The Shift,” which is a human rights organization described this way on their official website:

“THE SHIFT recognizes housing as a human right, not a commodity or an extractive industry. The Shift restores the understanding of housing as home, challenging the ways financial actors undermine the right to housing. Using a human rights framework, The Shift provokes action to end homelessness, unaffordability, and evictions globally.”

The organization, which is Canadian-based, issued a letter of concern to the Sixers’ ownership group, expressing what it thought were “grave concerns about potential human rights violations in Philadelphia’s Chinatown to 76 Devcorp.” The letter more or less condemns the shit out of the project, while opening with the following two paragraphs:

“We write to you as The Shift, an international organization and movement dedicated to securing the human right to adequate housing globally. The Shift is headed by Leilani Farha, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing (2014-2020) and works with individuals, governments, and the private sector to help ensure the right to housing is enjoyed by all.”

“We wish to express our serious concern regarding the proposed development of a new Philadelphia 76ers basketball arena in Philadelphia’s Fashion District, and in particular the impact that this may have on the city’s Chinatown and its community. Having spoken directly with community members who are impacted by the arena plans, we believe that this proposed development may be inconsistent with international human rights law. On this basis, we call upon you to take immediate action to protect the homes and livelihoods of Philadelphia’s Chinatown community, in line with your human rights responsibilities.”

The letter is a little goofy. It raises some perfectly valid concerns about gentrification and the construction process,  but to suggest that building a basketball arena in place of a failing mall amounts to a “human rights violation” is absolutely bonkers batshit crazy. If that was the case, nobody would be allowed to build anything in Philadelphia.

But that’s not even the question here. The question is why the Inquirer took this story down. It seems like a very run-of-the-mill type of thing. Group announces their opposition or support to project, Gammage writes a thousand words with some quotes, and an editor publishes. And according to Inquirer sources, that’s all the story was – a synopsis of the letter featuring quotes from The Shift, Chinatown reps, and a spokesperson from the PR firm representing 76 Place.

It checks out when you read the excerpts that the APIPA was able to save and post on Twitter:

One thing I can say, unequivocally, is that 76 place is not “trying to silence the truth,” or, more specifically in this case, they are completely incapable of doing that, because there is no love lost between the Sixers and Inquirer. David Adelman and others have made public their displeasure with the Inky’s media coverage, so to think that he or anyone with the Sixers could make a few phone calls and get that story taken down is EXTREMELY dubious. If that was the case, they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to be absolutely eviscerated by the Inquirer’s Community desk over the last 12+ months.

My best guess is that the Inquirer might have circled back on the vetting process here to take another look at Leilani Farha and this organization specifically, which is not based in the United States and does not appear to have any previous experience with the Philadelphia region. It looks to be a relatively new group as well, so you can ask legitimate questions about funding and the content of the letter itself.

I’d email the Inquirer and ask but they never respond and I think they hate our guts anyway. But one of the ridiculous takeaways is that the Chinatown groups and other various anti-arena folks are now annoyed with the Inquirer for pulling this. Inevitably, you end up stepping in the shit, which in this case is pissing off both sides.

EDIT – looks like the Inquirer provided a statement to one single outlet, called “Field of Schemes” –

UPDATE: Just got this emailed statement from Gabriel Escobar, Inquirer editor and senior vice president: “The article that briefly appeared Thursday on, in hindsight, required more context and more reporting. For those reasons, we decided to take it down while continuing to pursue the story.”