It appears that journalists and fans were served a hot plate of Catfish, which neither group checked closely enough to ensure that it passed the smell test. In one of the most bizarre sports stories in recent memory, details are emerging that Notre Dame star linebacker, Manti Te’o, claimed to have a girlfriend who never actually existed. The girlfriend, supposed Stanford University student Lennay Kekua, was touted as a source of emotional inspiration for Te’o’s amazing season, after her reported death from leukemia in September 2012.
Several media outlets, including no less than The New York Times, ESPN, and CBS, ran stories detailing the brief relationship between Te’o and Kekua, including quotes from the apparently fictional woman, mostly from the angle that Te’o used the tragic loss of his beloved girlfriend as fuel for his Heisman-nominated performance this season.
Now, with evidence that the pictures of Kekua were actually another young woman from California with whom a close friend of Te’o’s was acquainted, and the fact there is no record that anyone named Lennay Kekua ever attended Stanford, the Notre Dame ‘backer’s, got some explaining to do. After being steamrolled by Alabama’s SEC speed in the National Championship, and this sordid tale that brings his basic human decency and mental health into question, Manti Te’o’s stock is dropping quicker than a groupie’s panties during NBA All-Star weekend. Oh to be a fly on the wall during the NFL Combine psych evaluations.
Update: Notre Dame has released a statement saying coaches were informed that Te’o “had been the victim of what appeared to be a hoax.” Accordingly, “the proper authorities” are investigating a “very cruel deception.” Full statement below.
“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.”
P.S. Where were the factcheckers? MTV’s Nev Schulman would have had this sorted out in 22 minutes, plus commercials, but The Gray Lady is caught with her sensible trousers wrapped around her ankles? Wow.