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Joe Chacon's Blog
Manti Teo: Genuine Hoax or Seriously Deranged? Stuck
Posted on January 17, 2013 at 12:48 AM.

On my way home this evening I was listening to the Petros and Money show on AM 570. They were in the midst of explaining a story in which Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Teo, purposely made up the story about having a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua and her sad story of getting into a car accident and dying of leukemia.

As of right now, the well-researched story on Deadspin is just that a story. Teo released a statement Wednesday night explaining he was part of a hoax and hoped it served as a wakeup call for others.

Teo included the following in his statement:

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.
What I found interesting in his statement was him never specifically stating that this alleged made-up girlfriend never existed.

Teo communicated often with who he believed was a real girlfriend on Twitter. The profile pictures on Twitter as well as the ones used in the media to depict Kekua are actually of a real person who lives in Torrance, CA (which eerily enough is the next town over from me).

Why is this story important? Thats a fair question. Much of the draw to Teo this football season was because of this story of him overcoming the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend within a couple days of each other. Im a USC Trojan fan and I was pulling for Teo for much of the season because of the sympathy I had for him.

There were articles and television stories capturing the emotion of Teos journey through heartbreak. Not to mention all the fans and people Teo met face to face and thanked for their well-wishes. To put it simply, the story of his girlfriend launched him into the national spotlight.

Take nothing away from Teo as a player. Hes a great college linebacker and was a defensive player of the year who amassed 113 tackles and 7 interceptions during the 2012 campaign.

The question is whether or not this tale is true. Oh, and one more thing, there is another variable to throw into the equation. Other people are actually starting to come forward to say Kekua is real. Take for example, Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia.

ESPN is reporting Mauia met Kekua in American Samoa in 2011 while doing charity work.

This was before her and Manti. I dont think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa.
Deadspin makes no mention as to why they decided to dive into the Teo story, but on the surface it appears theyve hit the jackpot. Ive heard the sites editor (Timothy Burke) on the radio, saw him on Anderson Cooper, and will no doubt see his face on the morning news circuit. If Deadspin wasnt a mainstream name yet, they most certainly will be over the next 24-hours.

Heres my gut feeling as to what happened with Teo. I believe he did establish an online relationship with somebody and developed feelings for her. I do believe that this girl was in fact a persona derived by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who is allegedly the person who was running the Twitter account of Kekua and behind the entire joke of getting Teo to fall in love with somebody who didnt even exist.

Tuiasosopo and Teo allegedly know each other, thats important to establish.

After a while I believe the joke fell apart and Tuiasosopo admitted to Teo what was going on. How long the joke went on for, I dont know, I dont even know if this is what happened but its my knee-jerk reaction.

Instead of extinguishing the story there, the two believed it would be fun to keep the story going. One interview of Teo mentioning Kekuas death led to another and before he knew it, Teo was caught up in the lie. He didnt truly understand the scope of telling the lie about his deceased girlfriend until the national media caught on and developed features about it.

As time went on, Teo would have established a new relationship and a life in the NFL, surely the questions regarding Kekua would have faded away into history. Teo would have paid off enough people to keep the story a secret and life would have continued on as normal.

So, when does the movie come out?

OS Voice: What is your gut feeling regarding the Manti Teo hoax? Did Teo purposely lead people on or was he truly blindsided by the fact his love never existed?

Joe Chacon is a staff writer for Operation Sports and a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeChacon.
# 1 gsize19 @ Jan 17
Set up by Notre Shame guranteed... So Te'o had a girlfriend he never met??? LOL C'mon, get real... That is like saying Muggsy Bogues was really 7' 2" the camera shaved inches from him...
# 2 scottyo60 @ Jan 17
Awareness rating in madden... Big fat 0
# 3 BSchwartz07 @ Jan 17
Seems like Te'o and Tuiasosopo may have been dating each other... creating an online girlfriend allowed Te'o the ability to avoid questions concerning his dating life. Once he started to hit the mainstream media it became apparent that she may be reached for interview or to attend a game, thus they had to "kill her off"... the only motive for this whole thing that makes sense is if Te'o is gay and trying to keep that from ND as well as others in the sport. Think about it!
# 4 Eski33 @ Jan 17
There are a number of shames in this but the university shouldn't be mentioned. The school or football program had zero to do with this. I keep reading "Notre Shame" and so on. People need to separate the man from the school.

If Te'o was a part of this hoax, I find it hard to believe it was done to eliminate a fake girlfriend. The timing. His grandmother passed then his girlfriend the same day? As a HUGE ND fan, I was shocked to hear of this. If he was involved, the motive is there to gain publicity and sympathy.

However, I will wait to pass judgment. At minimum, he is a naive soul.
# 5 bccards13 @ Jan 17
As my friend, a loyal Notre Dame fan, said "Te'o is either a freak, or a liar. Either way I wasted more money on his t shirt."
# 6 djcorrosive @ Jan 17
I don't know which side of the story is worse. If he's the perpetrator, he's seriously messed up in the head. If he's the victim, he's an absolute moron. This will affect his draft status either way. If he is the victim, he better do well on the Wonderlic test to prove he's not a dolt.
# 7 djcorrosive @ Jan 17
Also, the idea that he may be using it to hide he is gay is plausible. If so, hopefully he comes out and starts to break down the stigma of gay NFL players. It's time for that to stop.
# 8 BlackRome @ Jan 18
# 8 djcorrosive @ Jan 17 (22 Hours Ago)
I don't know which side of the story is worse. If he's the perpetrator, he's seriously messed up in the head. If he's the victim, he's an absolute moron.
I'm going to go with both. Religion tends to do that to people.
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