Manti Te'o: Who Is To Believe?
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Was he the victim of a “Catfish” type scheme? Did he know all along? Did they ever meet? Did his friends and teammates know? Who is really to blame? Does this affect his draft stock? When will we hear from him?
All of these are questions that have been posed in regard to the recent news surrounding Notre Dame linebacker and projected top-10 NFL draft pick, Manti Te’o. If you don’t know by now, here is a quick recap of the breaking news surrounding the football star.
Te’o, coming off a record-setting season for the Fighting Irish, was the feel-good story of the year, helping Notre Dame earn a berth in the BCS National Championship game. Media covered his story from angle, projecting him as a leader and star who had faced adversity, but found comfort in football, confiding in his coaches and teammates during a trying time. The Fighting Irish then went on to an undefeated regular season, with Te’o bringing home a handful of prestigious awards.
Wednesday evening, Deadspin.com released a story
that dropped my jaw and left me with questions of my own. Star linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o apparently lied about his relationship with girlfriend Lennay Kekua. Te’o informed the media that his grandmother and girlfriend had died only hours apart, a few days before the Fighting Irish were set to play Michigan State. He then heroically led Notre Dame to a 20-3 victory over the Spartans, recording twelve tackles, and winning the hearts of millions across the country. While the death of his grandmother is the truth, we recently found out that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never actually existed.
Manti Te’o, a Hawaiian native, claimed that he and Kekua met in Paolo Alto, California in 2009 after Notre Dame played Stanford. Since then, he said the two had remained in contact through the Internet and by phone. His father, Brian, noted in an interview that Kekua and Te’o spent time together in his hometown of Laie, Hawaii. Reports confirm that Te’o knew as early as December 26th that Kekua was not, in fact, a real person. Who is to believe?
After such devastating news was released to national media, Te’o released a statement
on Wednesday claiming that he was the victim of a hoax. Further reports have been released in the last two days, with statements from teammates and friends who claim that Te’o knew that Kekua was a farce and claimed that he loved the attention the story brought. Again, who do we believe?
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick spoke Wednesday night, informing the media that the University is standing by Te’o, supporting the claim that he was the victim of a hoax. So who is behind this? Reports suggest that it is a “family friend” of Te’o, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
Tuiasosopo and Te’o are reported to have been friends for “some time”, based on pictures from an Instagram account belonging to Tuiasosopo, which has been deleted. It seems like far too great a coincidence for these two friends to create a relationship online without knowing each other was on the opposite end. Knowing that Te’o loved the media attention he received, what seems far more likely is that the two conspired to create this story, to portray it to the world, and to move on. While this is just speculation, you can be sure that we have only scratched the surface of this truly perplexing story.
Te’o has spent the past several weeks in Florida, training for the NFL draft.