I waited this long too write about the Manti Te’o story, because it seemed like every thirty minutes or so another part of this story would break, making it really confusing to follow. I also wanted to make sure the sources that broke this story had all their facts straight, before I starting writing and discussing their information, just to find out later that it wasn’t true. Even during my process of writing this story, news continued to break and I did my absolute best to get all the correct facts and information on this ongoing story, and if any more information is released I will post it as soon as I can. This story is extremely shocking and confusing and really takes the Lance Armstrong Blood Doping confession story out of spot light for now.
On October 2, 2012, Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o was interviewed by ESPN reporter, Gene Wojciechowski. The story was about how Te’o had to overcome a simply gut wrenching tragedy, when he learned that his grandmother and girlfriend died on the same day, early in this year’s football season. In the interview, Te’o said that he had fell in love with girl that he had met on-line a year ago, and that they have never met face to face before and their only means of communication was the phone and chatting on the internet. The on-line girlfriend’s name was, Lennay Kekua, who Te’o classified as the love of his life. He told Wojciechowski that he and Lennay had a certain connection that made him completely fall head over heels for this girl despite never meeting her in person. He went on to tell Wojciechowski that Lennay had recently been in a terrible car accident and went into comma and during her time in the hospital, Te’o said Lennay had been diagnosed with Leukemia and expressed how difficult it was to hear that Lennay was going to die. On September 12, 2012, one week after the 2012 season started, Te’o and family were informed that Te’o’s grandmother had passed away, and 6 hours later he found out that Kekue had allegedly lost her battle against Leukemia and passed away too. In the interview Te’o said that he talked to Lennay every night for four months after she was diagnosed because she could not sleep unless he was on the phone with her and expressed how hard it was to deal with after she passed away, because there was nothing but silence left and it ate at him every day. Te’o ended the interview saying, “The last words Lennay said to me was I love you” and at that time you could see the emotion on his face and you could tell how much he cared about this girl, even though he had never met her before.
Obviously this story was one of the bigger stories in college football this year and after seeing this emotional interview, people really fell in love with Te’o and his tragic story and were so amazed that a kid that has gone thru so much tragedy in his life, still went out on the field and competed at the highest level for his team. On September 15th, in the game following the news of his grandmother and girlfriends death, he led the defense with 12 tackles and had one of the best games of his college career, in a win over Michigan State. Throughout the football season, the fighting Irish fan base, Notre Dame, and his team, really showed their support for Te’o and he said he used the emotions on the field every game and never stopped thinking about Lennay and how much she meant to him. However, on December 26th, Te’o and his family informed the University Of Notre Dame that Te’o had been the victim of a horrible joke and found out that Lennay Kekua did not even exist. After hearing the shocking news from Te’o, Notre Dame’s athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, said Notre Dame began investigating the “cruel hoax” as he called it, since Te’o approached the University about the apparent hoax. Private investigators hired by the University researched and monitored online chatter by the alleged perpetrators, to see if they could give them any information about who and how this horrible incident could have happened. Swarbrick said, that he was shocked by the “casual cruelty” it revealed and said “They enjoyed the joke,” comparing the hoax to the popular film “Catfish”, in which filmmakers revealed a person at the other end of an online relationship was not who they said they were. Swarbrick said that Notre Dame fully supported Te’o in this cruel hoax and while speaking to the press, Swarbrick became very emotional and said “I want to stress, as someone who has probably been as engaged in this as anyone in the past couple of weeks, that nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te’o one iota,” and also went on to say, “the worst thing about all of this, is that Te’o will never be able to trust someone in that manner again and that is what disturbs me the most.”
Responding to a story first reported by a sport website called Deadspin, Te’o has acknowledged that Kekua never existed, after he received a phone call from the same number he had for Kekua, after her alleged death. When Te’o answered the phone, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same person he had talked to, who told him that Lennay Kekua was, not dead. Deadspin reported that the image attached to Kekua’s social media profile, which was the one Te’o knew her from, was of another woman who has said, that she did not even know Te’o or know that her picture was being used. Deadspin also reported that there is no death certificate for Kekua and also that Stanford, where Kekua allegedly went to school, had no records of anybody with that name attending the University. Deadspin also traced the profile to a California man, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who is an acquaintance of Te’o and of the woman whose photo was stolen. Te’o said that he met Tuiasosopo one time and was told that Tuiasosopo was a cousin of Kekua, but later found out after the story was released that Tuiasosopo was not a relative of Kekua. Friends and relatives of Tuiasosopo told Deadspin that they believe that Tuiasosopo created Kekua as a hoax on Te’o, and that Te’o was a victim of the hoax. However, a friend of Tuiasosopo, who would like to remain unknown, said that he was “80% sure” that Te’o participated and did so with publicity in mind. Te’o denied that he was in on the hoax and released this statement on Wednesday, “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. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”
I am probably not the only one that finds this story disturbing, shocking, and really sickening that anyone, regardless if Te’o was involved or not, could trick a young man into thinking he has a girlfriend, cyber girlfriend, or whatever you want to call it, and then make him believe that she was diagnosed with cancer and to go as far as faking her death. How could anyone find this despicable act amusing or entertaining at all? However, if it comes out that Manti Te’o was involved in this hoax just to get publicity; he is in need of some psychiatric help, because that is borderline insane. Te’o is probably the last person that needed anymore publicity surrounding his life and I really do not see what he could have achieved by faking his relationship and death of a girl. Yes you might get sympathy from everyone, but what is that going to get you? It is not going to help you win games or get into the NFL any easier than you already were, so what would have been the purpose of Te’o faking this relationship? Te’o’s story is really hard to believe for some people, because it is hard to imagine that someone could be so in love with a person that he has never met before and only talks to on the phone and internet. When the young lady was supposedly in a terrible car accident and diagnosed with Leukemia he never went to see her, why not? If Te’o loved this girl as much as he described he did in the interview, how could he have not gone to see her after all that she went thru? However, everyone is different from one to the next and some react to situations totally different than others do.
Te’o sat down with ESPN reporter, Jeremy Schaap on Friday night in a off camera interview where Te’o denied being a part of a hoax involving his relationship with Lennay Kekua online who he considered to be his girlfriend. Te’o said, “No, never, I wasn’t faking it. I was not a part of this.” He also went on to say that he was not making up this story to help him in his Heisman chances. “When (people) hear the facts, they will know” he said. “They will know that there is no way that I could be part of this.” Schaap told anchors on Sport Center Friday night, that Te’o was very calm and collective during the 2 hour interview. He was very composed with every question, showed no signs of guilt, and was very convincing with every answer he gave. “Te’o explained himself well and laid out everything that had happened in his relationship with Lennay Kukue”, said Schaap. Schaap went on to say, that Te’o was very relieved that he finally got a chance to tell his story and that it was clear that Te’o had felt better having unburdened himself of this and was glad he had the chance to fully explain himself. Schaap ended his discussion with the Sport Center anchors by saying, “The way that Manti Te’o told me the story, I came away finding it very believable”.
More information on this confusing and disturbing story are coming out almost every hour, and just now sources are reporting that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was indeed the perpetrator of the hoax and that he had pulled the same hoax on another person 4 years ago, using the same name for the girl on-line “Lennay Kekue”. An anonymous friend of Tuiasosopo, told “Outside the Lines” reporters, that Tuiasosopo called her in early December, crying and admitting that he had duped Te’o and gave her a tearful confession and account of how he played what he said, was at first a game on the unsuspecting Te’o, and he told her that it wasn’t the first time he had done this. The anonymous girl also told reporters that Ronaiah told her that Te’o had no involvement at all with the hoax and that he was the victim. A Reporter from “Outside the Lines” said they had tried contacting Tuiasosopo, but was unable to reach him and believes that he has gone into hiding, according to what the anonymous girl told them. Te’o revealed to Jeremy Schaap in their interview, that Tuiasosopo had apologized to him two days ago through twitter, and said that he felt terrible about this situation and that it had spun out of control and it wasn’t his intention to make him suffer like this. Te’o had no response to the apology by Tuiasosopo, but I can imagine that the things that Tuiasosopo put Te’o thru during this entire hoax is unforgivable or it is at least in my mind, but the decision to forgive Tuiasosopo is on Te’o and he is the only one that knows how it feels to be tricked like this. I can only hope that Te’o gets some kind of justification or vindication from this terrible and sad story that he has to live with, knowing the girl that he truly was in love with, turned out to be someone’s sick joke.
So to wrap up what I consider to be one of the most confusing and shocking story of the year is, Manti Te’o was completely duped by a hoax that was made up by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te’o’s entire relationship with Lennay Kukue, who he considered his “on-line” girlfriend, who he thought was diagnosed with Leukemia and passed away, was entirely fake and made up. Te’o’s complete interview with ESPN reporter, Jeremy Schaap has not been completely released and the little information that I am aware of is what I just posted. I will continue to keep all information up to date on my site and if any more of his closed door interview comes out, I will post it as soon as I can.