Manti Te’o’s Girlfriend A Hoax

BY LORI RAUDIO

Most people who followed college football this season heard the story of Notre Dame player Manti Te’o. The Heisman candidate inspired thousands of people when he led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated season despite two devastating losses in his family: his grandmother and his girlfriend.

Te’o’s tragic tale consumed the media. His story was featured in Sports Illustrated and on College Gameday and became one of the biggest stories of the year. He even wrote a letter to a family who lost a child, identifying with their pain and offering comfort.

Today, however, the story came crashing down. In a story by Deadspin, authors Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey revealed Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed. They found no record of her birth, no death certificate, and supposed pictures of her were traced to a different woman. This news broke on Twitter and immediately went viral.

Within a few hours of the article being published and the Twitter overload, Notre Dame and Te’o released statements. Both acknowledged the hoax as well as an ongoing investigation. Te’o called the situation “incredibly embarrassing to talk about,” and said the woman he thought he was in an online relationship played a sick joke.

This news leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Who is the woman Te’o thought he was dating? Where did Deadspin obtain its information, and why didn’t Te’o comment before the story broke?

With the way the media hyped Te’o’s story, it is simply shocking to believe it isn’t true. While I feel sorry for Te’o, I also feel a little betrayed. How long were we led to believe his story after he learned the truth?

More information will surely come out pending the investigation, and this story will surely be a headline in the media for the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see how Te’o’s fans react and how it affects his NFL prospects.

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About The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project

The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project is a hub for teaching, research, and service related to sport media. The Project benefits students and faculty at Bowling Green State University, and offers outreach and media consulting to area and regional groups that work with student-athletes. Through collaborative efforts of the Sport Management program and the School of Media and Communication, BGSU students have the opportunity to learn such skills as sports writing, reporting, broadcasting, announcing, public relations, media relations, communication management and production. Faculty and other scholars have access to resources about the commercial and sociological aspects of sport.

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