“Catfish” Anyone? Notre Dame Football Star Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend Found To Be An Online Hoax (Was He In On It?)

January 17, 2013  |  

AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams

If you have seen the MTV show Catfish, I’m sure you’ve seen a whole new level of ratchet that is blowing everybody’s mind and has them tuning in every Monday. I’m a bit skeptical about whether or not the show is real, because too many people come out the boonies on that show looking like “Who Shot John” claiming they pretended to be handsome men and gorgeous women online to seek revenge or get attention. And how do you talk to someone for years and never FaceTime, Skype or anything!? A lot of the time, the stories are a little fishy to me…but I still find myself sucked in.

But that kind of online dating deception could really be happening in everyday life, because a storm of controversy has just surrounded Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. The most decorated college football player of all time, Te’o had spent most of his senior year on the field making major moves, but also talking about his girlfriend, Stanford student Lennay Kekua. I’m sure you’re wondering why anyone would care about a college athlete’s love life, but this love story of his was one of the most complex and saddest stories ever told. According to Forbes, in September of last year, his girlfriend was believed to have died from leukemia, and Te’o even told reporters that before she succumbed to leukemia, Kekua told him that she had been in a damn near fatal car accident, the leukemia being found as she was treated for her accident injuries. What awful things to go through at one time, huh? And to make things worse, his grandmother had actually passed away hours before Kekua was believed to have died.

Well, the sadness surrounding his personal life spilled over into his athletic endeavors, as media was reporting the story of Te’o and his girlfriend and pushing it like hotcakes. Kekua had even allegedly told him NOT to come to her funeral if it was the same day as one of his precious games, because she’d rather he go out there and play for her. “Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise that you’ll stay there and you’ll play and you’ll honor me through the way you play.” This was an alleged direct quote from the young woman, which was given to CBS News. Coincidentally, his team was in the process of playing to get to the BCS National Championship Game. With the national media serving all these stories about this young man’s strength and perseverance through so much, he became beloved nationally by a great deal of college football fans, and went on to be a runner-up for the Heisman trophy, an award many were hoping he would win.

But just yesterday, it came to light that Lennay Kekua, her heartbreaking car accident, her sad death due to leukemia and her life in general, was fake. Fake as hell at that. Turns out, girlfriend, who was “the love of his life,” never existed. A family friend of the player, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, had concocted the woman and a profile to communicate with Te’o. The images people were seeing were actually those of a friend of Tuiasosopo who claimed she didn’t know Te’o, and was horrified that her photo was being passed off has her.

It was allegedly a prank that blew out of control because of Te’o’s rising notoriety. And while the player and officials at the school are now saying that he was Catfished and bamboozled, some are wondering if he may have been in on the whole thing. Whether he was in on it from the beginning we don’t know yet, but according to Forbes, it seems that he “found out” about the scam by late December, and still decided to keep this information on the hush. According to Forbes, Te’o didn’t want the negative attention on him or his team before their big appearance in the BCS National Championship game on January 7. But the site, Deadspin, did some snooping and exposed the hoax of their relationship to the world last night. Now, Notre Dame officials and even Te’o are on the defensive, but they stand by the story that Te’o didn’t know that the girl didn’t exist, even though media reports from last year have his father on record saying that they had even met the girl before. Te’o put out a statement today saying, “To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”

If he was duped by a jealous family friend trying to pull a prank, is that not just one of the most hateful things a person can do? But honestly, I just have the feeling that Te’o knew more than he wants us to believe. And is it not interesting to anyone else that a nationally known collegiate football star was carrying on an online relationship? Seriously? Was I the only one who went to school with popular athletes who stereotyped it up by messing around with all the thirsty freshman girls? But hey, whatever works. No matter what the truth is, this is some soap opera mess that we can’t believe. I’m sure Nev Schulman is somewhere wishing he could have blew the lid off of this one for MTV…Thoughts?



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