Remember that touching college football story about the heartbreaking losses suffered by Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o, which inspired him to improve his play during the university’s breakout season?
Only part of it was true. And Te’o has a lot of explaining to do.
In short, Te’o lost not only his beloved grandmother, but also his girlfriend, in a span of six hours on September 11, 2012. His grandmother, Annette Santiago, did indeed unfortunately pass away at the age of 72.
His supposed girlfriend, however, could not possibly die, because she never existed.
According to the website Deadspin.com, there are no legal records of any kind whatsoever for a Lennay Kekua—the given name for the girlfriend—that had any ties to Te’o.
The Deadspin article seems quite damning for Te’o, wherein one contributing source to the story suggests that he is “80 percent sure” of his involvement of the hoax. Supposedly involving a family friend or relative by the name of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the article suggests that he created the Kekua character in order to engage in deceptive ‘romantic’ online relationships for personal amusement before the involvement of Te’o.
The aforementioned source goes on to suggest that Tuiasosopo and Te’o exploited the Kekua character and the story of her death as publicity—which can little be denied as a success, as the story was widely exploited during Notre Dame games throughout the season, as well as in a story of a letter that Te’o had written to the parents of a sick child in the hospital.
What is clear in the article is that this Lennay Kekua did not die, and in fact never existed. The question that remains to be answered is whether or not Te’o was involved in the hoax, or if he was simply a victim. The most perplexing bit of the puzzle are the claims in various articles that Te’o had actually met up with Kekua on occasions.
In an article from The South Bend Tribune dated October 12, Te’o’s father, Brian, is quoted as saying that “every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there”.
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