Manti Te’o, Notre Dame, Lennay Kekua, football, ESPN, sports.
If you’re anything like me, none of those words meant anything to you before yesterday. But now they’re all anyone can talk about and as someone who’s always on top of the pop culture news cycle, you need to know what’s going on. But you’re totally lost because what? Who are these people and why is this happening and where did it say in your horoscope that you’d have to care about sports this week.
No stress, I got your back. We’re in the same boat. Would I rather talk about Emma Stone today? Of course. But unfortunately for us, no one else does. So we’re stuck looking into this story about a guy named Manti Te’o who allegedly got tricked into dating a fake girlfriend for unknown reasons. While we’re not going to delve super deep into it, we’re going to talk about it enough that you can carry on a relatively educated conversation about it.
So here are the basics.
1. Manti Te’o is an extremely talented linebacker from Hawaii who plays for the Notre Dame football team. According to his Wikipedia profile, he’s “the most decorated defensive player in college football history.” Considering what I know about Notre Dame and their obsession with their football team, I’ll go ahead and guess that he’s probably somewhat of a celebrity on campus. But keep in mind, that’s pure guessture.
2. In 2012 he starts telling people he’s dating Lennay Kekua, a Stanford student who gets in a tragic car accident soon after they officially become a couple. While recovering from her car accident, she gets diagnosed with Leukemia and eventually dies from the disease in fall 2012. Throughout this time Manti Te’o apparently talks about her in interviews and acknowledges her general existence publicly. He even goes as far as to say that her dying wish was that he would play well in the BCS championship game. It’s like an incredibly moving scene from a movie — which I guess should have tipped people off that it’s too good to be true.
3. Yesterday Deadspin breaks the news that Lennay Kekua doesn’t exist. She never went to Stanford, she never died from Leukemia and she most certainly did not date Manti Te’o. But twist, she had an active Twitter account with photos. So who was the girl featured? Deadspin tracked her down and found out that she had no idea that her image was being used on social media as well as in the news media to represent a football player’s dead girlfriend. They have an awesome breakdown with a timeline of how this all went down if you want more details.
4. After Deadspin broke the story, Notre Dame issued the following statement about their star player and his made-up dead girlfriend. It essentially says that Notre Dame AND Manti Te’o were both victims of a cruel hoax.
On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.
5. Then Manti Te’o added to the hoax angle and said the following about a woman who he at one point claimed to meet in person at Stanford.
This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.
5. People are confused as to how this happened. Could this really be some kind of Catfish-style relationship where a guy really got fooled into thinking he was dating someone who didn’t exist? It seems too hard to believe that he’s completely innocent in this relationship considering that he claimed to speak to her every night on the phone. Are we to believe that he didn’t go to his beloved girlfriend’s funeral? What about the fact that his father talked about her to the press? Sure I dropped out of calculus in high school, but I still don’t think this story adds up. Even if he got tricked into believing she’s real, he definitely still lied about meeting her. Right? RIGHT?!
6. A lot of people are speculating that Manti Te’o created a fake girlfriend to hide the fact he’s gay. If the gay allegations are true, it would certainly help explain why he felt the need to create this elaborate lie about a girlfriend. A star football player trying to hide his sexuality could easily avoid the pressures of hooking up with a lot of girls by simply saying he’s dating someone out of state. We can then almost see how the lies may have continued to build upon each other until they were out of control. Perhaps he thought killing her off would solve his problem. He wouldn’t have to lie about her anymore and wouldn’t have to hook up with girls since he’d be in mourning. This is pure speculation though that’s not backed up with any kind of evidence, so don’t quote it.
7. Buzzfeed reports that people joked about this being a hoax over a month ago and kinda pointed in the direction of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. He’s the same guy mentioned in the Deadspin article and he’s the same guy who happens to be the connection between Manti Te’o and the girl who’s photos were used for Lennay Kekua’s Twitter profile.
8. Many people in the sports world believed Manti Te’o would be a top pick in the NFL draft. But Forbes reports this morning that his involvement in this hoax may have just ruined his chances. Then again, we’ve seen athletes bounce back from other scandals so maybe they’re overthinking the impact this will have on his future football career.
9. No one really understands what’s going on right now. Did Manti Te’o know Lennay wasn’t real? Why would he lie about this? How many people knew she was fake? If you’re still confused after reading this then you’re officially all caught up on the Manti Te’o scandal of 2013. Congrats!