- In one of the strangest sports stories in recent memory, the late-girlfriend of American college football star Manti Te'o reportedly never actually existed and may be part of an elaborate hoax.Te'o, the star linebacker for Notre Dame and a team captain, helped lead Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season and a No.1 ranking in the NCAA before the team lost in the championship game.Te'o made the cover of Sports Illustrated, while the story of his grandmother and girlfriend both dying the same day tugged at heartstrings everywhere.But the girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was never real.The bizarre discovery left America's college football fans—and the Twitterverse—scratching their heads:
- Soon after the story was published, Notre Dame football released a statement on the team Facebook page:
Notre Dame Statement: Manti Te’o
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.
University Spokesman | Assistant Vice President
- Te'o released a statement later that day.
- The statement went as follows:
"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."
- Others were more skeptical of Te'o being a victim of a hoax, citing past articles where he is quoted that he spent time with her.
- With recent reports of Lance Armstrong admitting to doping in an interview with Oprah, to be televised this week, the Te'o story is making waves as another potential story of an athlete in the national spotlight lying.