She couldn’t die, because she never existed.
The Notre Dame star’s tale of tragedy made the cover of Sports Illustrated in October and was detailed in newspapers and on television across the United States throughout the college football season.
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The linebacker’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who had been diagnosed with leukemia, died of the disease just hours after his grandmother died of old age, or so the story went. Te’o, tough to the core, played through it all.
But an investigation by the sports website Deadspin revealed on Wednesday that while his grandmother did in fact die, Kekua’s entire existence was a hoax.
After the news broke, Te’o and the University of Notre Dame confirmed that a massive deception had taken place. But the two accounts vary widely on just who was being deceived.
People in Te’o’s hometown are offering support.
No one answered the door Wednesday evening and no one appeared to be inside the modest, single-storey wood home of Te’o’s parents, Brian and Ottilia Te’o, in the small coastal town of Laie on Oahu’s northern shore where Manti Te’o was born.
But members of the mostly Mormon community, a town of about 6,000 people about an hour’s drive from Honolulu that is home to a small satellite campus of Hawaii’s Brigham Young University, said they were dumbfounded, and didn’t believe he would have knowingly perpetrated such a story.
Lokelani Kaiahua said Te’o’s parents were her classmates, and she knew them to have strong family values they instilled in their children.
“I just don’t see something like that being made up from him or having any part of that because they’re not those kind of people,” she said while sitting and talking with friends a few doors down from the Te’o family home. “Everybody’s kind of like ‘what is going on?’”
After the story broke in the early evening, Notre Dame University issued a statement that said Te’o informed his coaches on Dec. 26 that it was he who was “the victim” of a hoax. Soon after, Te’o issued his own statement, spelling out that he was duped, and that he and his girlfriend “maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online.”
The Deadspin report paints a much different picture. Te’o, second in Heisman Trophy voting and expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick, rode the tale to fame during a record-setting season.
His heartbreaking and inspirational story captured the hearts of millions, and he told it over and over, starting with articles in Indiana’s South Bend Tribune.
From there, he made Sports Illustrated, had his story mentioned in the New York Times, and was featured on segments on CBS and ESPN.
On Sept. 12, Te’o said, he learned his grandmother had died in his hometown in Hawaii. Hours later, he received a phone call from his girlfriend’s brother.
The brother told Te’o that Lennay Kekua had lost her battle with cancer. Heartbroken, Te’o somehow managed to lead Notre Dame in an upset win over Michigan State on Sept. 22.
Thousands of fans wore Hawaiian leis in honour of his dead girlfriend, who was buried that day. She had told him not to miss the game. He told reporters he sent white flowers to her funeral.
Te’o had two interceptions, leading his team to a 4-0 start — its best in a decade — and his coach dedicated the game ball to his dead girlfriend.
Te’o used the inspiration to lead his team to the championships, collecting multiple trophies in a record-breaking season along the way.
The Deadspin report says his tale became more exaggerated as his interviews multiplied, and some reports didn’t match.
There are no burial records for Kekua, according to Deadspin, and no record she ever attended Stanford University, where she was reported to be a student.
The site also traces Kekua’s fake Twitter account to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, whom Deadspin calls a friend of Te’o, and includes an interview with the woman whose picture was used on the account.
When contacted by Deadspin, the woman said she was shocked to learn she had apparently died, and said her name was not Lennay Kekua. The site did not reveal her actual identity.
She told her own strange tale to Deadspin when shown the latest photo posted as the fake account’s profile image.
Tuiasosopo, an old high school friend, had contacted her randomly with a strange request.
“His cousin had been in a serious car accident, and thought she was pretty,” the report says. “Would she be so kind as to take a picture of herself holding up a sign reading ‘MSMK’ to put in a slide show to support the cousin’s recovery?”
The fake account’s Twitter handle was @LoveMSMK.
The woman complied, and after learning the photograph was attached to @LoveMSMK, she inquired with Tuiasosopo. The photo disappeared.
Te’o first interacted with @LoveMSMK on Twitter in October 2011.
The Deadspin report details how Te’o also interacted on Twitter with Tuiasosopo.
Since the report was published, the @LoveMSMK Twitter account has been deleted.
Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown issued a statement on Facebook detailing what Te’o told his coaches in December.
“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,” said Brown.
While the Deadspin report suggests Te’o was involved in the hoax, Te’o said in his statement how he is “the victim” in all of this.
“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.”
Te’o explained he only ever interacted with his “girlfriend” online and on the phone, but “grew to care deeply about her.”
He said he was the victim “of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies,” which he called “painful and humiliating.”
Te’o wants people to understand how “trying and confusing” the experience has been for him, and to learn from his mistakes. “In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious,” he said.
Meanwhile, NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt believes the uncertainty surrounding Te’o could affect when he is selected in April by an NFL team.
Brandt called the story that Notre Dame’s All-American linebacker was involved in a hoax “something I have never witnessed” in his half-century in pro football.
The former Dallas Cowboys general manager says he had Te’o rated 19th overall in the first round, and that Te’o’s stock had plummeted after a poor performance in the BCS championship game. Now, Te’o could fall further.
“I don’t think anybody considered him to be a top-five pick before all this happened,” Brandt said. “In that game against Alabama, this was like a guy who was the best shooter in the world in basketball and here comes a game and he can't even hit the backboard. His play in that game was absolutely horrible. He missed on run blitzes; guys ran over him . . .”
Brandt also noted how the inside linebacker position doesn’t carry as much importance in the NFL as it once did. In the last 10 years, only four inside linebackers were taken in the first round, although one of them was perennial all-pro Patrick Willis of San Francisco.
“I think it would be different if it was a quarterback who would change the game,” he said. “But linebackers are a piece to the puzzle; they don't solve the puzzle. Other than Ray Lewis, I don’t know if any linebacker you say, ‘We’ve have got to have this guy.’
“(Inside) linebackers are not as important as they used to be. We’re down to one or two first-round linebackers now.”
Brandt wondered how Te’o could be so effective during the season, including seven interceptions — “unheard of, like hitting .450 in baseball” — and then so unproductive in the championship game.
“Between now and 97 days from now when the draft comes, there’ll be a lot of people investigating just what took place,” he said.
With files from Associated Press
So having said that, lets celebrate Manti Teos stupidity by naming people who are stupid but still smarter than him. Every time a name that is suggested gets 6 votes that namew ill be added to the list of people smarter than Manti.
List of stupid people smarter than Manti
I will start it off with George W Bush
Edited by canuckbeliever, 17 January 2013 - 05:34 PM.