Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
April 28, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Truthdig Bazaar
Jane Fonda’s War

Jane Fonda’s War

Mary Hershberger

more items

Ear to the Ground
Email this item Print this item

Notre Dame Football Star Says He Was Victim of ‘Girlfriend’ Hoax

Posted on Jan 17, 2013
Neon Tommy/Shotgun Spratling

Manti Te’o.

The emotional and heartbreaking story about the beginning of Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o's season is well known by now. On Sept. 12, Te’o's grandmother and girlfriend died within six hours of each other. Te’o, a Heisman Trophy finalist, said that the deaths helped inspire him to play better.

The problem with the story: The girlfriend did not die. In fact, she wasn’t even real. A Deadspin article Wednesday reported that it couldn’t find any record of Lennay Kekua ever existing.

But that’s not all. The story took another bizarre turn when Te’o responded to the Deadspin piece by claiming he was the victim of a “sick joke.”

In a statement, he said:

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.

The university also released a statement Wednesday, saying that the Heisman Trophy finalist was 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 New York Times:

At a news conference Wednesday night, Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s athletic director, said Te’o received a phone call in early December from a number that he thought to be Kekua’s. The voice on the phone was one he had believed to be hers, Swarbrick said, and the person was telling Te’o that she was not dead. Te’o and his family told the university about the situation on Dec. 26, Swarbrick said, at which point Notre Dame asked an independent investigative company to look into the matter.

Much remains unclear about whether Te’o was duped or whether he somehow perpetrated the fictitious story of having a girlfriend who died in September, during the season.

...Swarbrick said the university investigation found that the motive for creating a fake persona to trick Te’o had simply been the sport of it. He said the perpetrators’ hoax played out much like the 2010 film “Catfish,” in which a woman built a fake online persona in an attempt to create a relationship.

Read more

According to Deadspin, the person alleged to have perpetrated the prank is 22-year-old Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who is believed to have known Te’o.

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

Lockerdome Below Article
Get a book from one of our contributors in the Truthdig Bazaar.

Related Entries

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every day.

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook