A comprehensive and explosive story may have uncovered a supposed hoax surrounding Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
In a report by Deadspin released Wednesday, Te’o's girlfriend, who supposedly died in a car accident in November, was completely made up.
The report goes into exhaustive detail about Te’o's relationship with a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua, and plots a timeline between their apparent meeting and her “death,” along with the involvement of Te’o's family in an apparent fabricated story. Kekua’s alleged death happened in the same week of September as Te’o’s grandmother, who did actually pass away, and became one of the biggest and most talked about stories in sports during the college football season.
However, every major news outlet, which included the New York Times, Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, and CBS News, completely missed the alleged fabrication.
According to Deadspin, there are several accounts from the South Bend Tribune, Sports Illustrated, and the AP that state Kekua died in a car accident and also underwent treatments for leukemia. After she was released from the hospital, Te’o's father, Brian, called Kekua and congratulated her. But no records show Kekua ever existing.
The story continues to unfold, and whether Te’o was complicit in the hoax remains to be seen. The question of whether he knew and used it as a publicity stunt has been asked, but cannot be confirmed.
However, Deadspin wrote: “A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was "80 percent sure" that Manti Te'o was "in on it," and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua's death with publicity in mind. According to the friend, there were numerous photos of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te'o together on Tuiasosopo's now-deleted Instagram account.”
The report concludes that Te’o never met Kekua, and at some point the linebacker must have that something was remiss. Te’o has been very quiet in social media since Notre Dame lost to Alabama for the BCS National Championship. He is expected to be a first round draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft in April.
The report also states, Te’o never actually met Kekua, and that she may have been a fabrication of an alleged friend of Te’o named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Any pictures associated with Kekua were linked to a woman that Deadspin found and named “Reba” to protect her identity. “Reba” claimed to have never met Te’o and said Tuiasosopo asked her to hold up a sign with Kekua’s Twitter handle, which was been used to validate Kekua’s existence the entire time.
It is unclear exactly if and or when Te’o and his family knew about Kekua, but Notre Dame released a statement:
“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.”
The Notre Dame statement suggests that Te’o and his family are victims, and not perpetrators, in an elaborate fraud.
Te'o also released a statement: "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."