So by now you’ve heard that “the most inspirational story in sports” was a hoax.
Manti Te’o—a runner up for the Heisman trophy—was involved in an online-girlfriend deception that falls somewhere between the films “Catfish”, “The Sixth Man,” and “Flight.”
According to Te’o and Notre Dame:
In 2009 he started an online relationship with Lennay Kekua, whom he believed was a student at Stanford. Over 3 years he was unable to successfully meet her in person, but they spoke on the phone regularly. Earlier in 2012, Te’o was led to believe she was in an accident, and then diagnosed with leukemia, and eventually died—sometime around Notre Dame’s game against Purdue.
Now, the school is saying: three months after Kekua’s alleged death, she contacted Te’o and tried to rekindle the relationship. He then told his family, and the school, and the school hired a private investigator. Which was a smart move by them, because “noir” is so in, right now.
According to their internal investigation: Te’o was duped by “cruel” tricksters.
Although embarrassing, weird, and sad—that’s not necessarily the whole story. According to Deadspin’s reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey (as well as some handy sleuthing by Justin Megahan):
The dates don’t match up in Te’o’s description of events: When he found out she died, when he was getting letters from her, when he met her, etc. We’ve also been led to believe—by the Te’o family—that the two met in person at least once, if not multiple times. Te’o’s father may be one of the main sources behind the “story” of how they met. Also, Te’o’ had a relationship with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo—who right now seems to be behind the Lennay persona. And if he did eventually find out about this hoax, why did he keep bringing it up and addressing it in interviews, in earnest? And, why is there an Arizona Cardinals fullback insisting that Lennay is real, and why did a Lennay twitter account pop up and defend him?
This wouldn’t be the first time a guy pretended he was dating, or had met, or had sex with—a girl that he hadn’t. The “Oh my girlfriend? You wouldn’t know her, she goes to a different school.” move has been around as long as peer pressure, pride, and insecurity, so, forever.
Was Manti Te’o a victim? A fool? An accomplice? Did he find out at some point, and realize he was stuck with the story? Was it an angle that he hoped would help bring him the Heisman—which, as an award, has a history of falling for “stories” of overcoming adversity? Or was he just your run-of-the-mill Heisman candidate - surrounded by co-eds who would be more than happy to be his girlfriend in real life - that just got caught up simpin’ on the interwebs? (Or fell for a pretty face online, for my less-urbane readers)
And to Notre Dame: If you knew something was amiss, why would you promote a fund-raising effort that was launched in “Lennay’s” name?
Hopefully some of those questions will be answered son, as we may hear from both the perpetrator (puppet-traitor?), and the player himself. Hopefully we get more than written statements, because apparently you can’t believe anything you read on the internet anymore.
But we do want to hear what you think about this whole hoax. Tell us on our Facebook page if you think he was in on it or a victim.
Be sure to stay tuned to The Cycle’s website and show as we will continue to update the story as we get more information.