“Dead Girlfriend” Hoax Has People Asking If Linebacker Manti Te’o Is Gay

Manti Te’oNotre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o had one of the most heartbreaking stories in sports:  In the span of six hours, he learned about the death of his grandmother, Annette Santiago, and then of the death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.

After getting the terrible news, though, he went out and led his team to a surprise 20-3 victory against Michigan State.

In articles and testimonies in the months that followed, Te’o spoke of his meeting Kekua, of her bravery in the face of death, of letters she wrote as her leukemia progressed.

On Wednesday, however, the sports site Deadspin discovered Te’o’s story of a dead girlfriend was a complete fabrication. Lennay Kekua never met Te’o and she never died. From all accounts, she never existed.

On Thursday, Cyd Zeigler Jr of OutSports reported on growing rumors that Te’o might have faked the relationship to cover up his homosexuality.

We’ve seen rumors and heard stories about countless athletes in the past. But not since Troy Aikman have I been bombarded on email, text, Twitter and phone calls about the sexual orientation of any athlete the way I was today about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

When his “girlfriend” proved to be a mirage, Te’o claimed he had been duped.

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. 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.

But in numerous interviews, Te’o claimed to have laid eyes on Kekua—including at the 2009 football game where they allegedly first met—and to have spoken with her nightly on the phone.

ronaiahAdding more confusion to the mix is Te’o’s friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo,  who allegedly created Kekua’s Twitter account back in 2008, and used it to meet unsuspecting men.

Te’o wasn’t the first person to have an online “relationship” with her. One mark—who had been “introduced” to Lennay by Tuiasosopo—lasted about a month before family members grew suspicious that Lennay could never be found on the telephone, and that wherever one expected Lennay to be, Ronaiah was there instead.

It wouldn’t be the first time a gay man had created a fake profile to attract straight guys. But why did Te’o go along? Why did he build on the ruse? Just last November Tuiasosopo and his family were on-field guests of Teo’s when Notre Dame played USC.

And Tuiasosopo was in a car accident about a month before Te’o told the press Kekua had one.

Just being attached this scandal could harm Teo’s chances of getting onto an NFL team later this year. But what if he ‘s gay—as blogs, forums and facebook walls are suggesting—would that excuse the hoax?

“If he is, I hope he finds strength and acceptance,” writes Zeigler on OutSports. “The vast majority of his friends, teammates and fans will support him whole-heartedly. If he’s not, I hope he can answer some questions, because people want to know why on earth he would concoct this totally fabricated story— including eight-hour phone calls— if they never happened.”

But if Te’o reveals he is gay, it could prove a disaster for him: Not because of his sexuality, but because of his betrayal of the public good. How much can be forgiven in the name of coming out?

As NFL Retweet tweeted, “If Manti Te’o ends up being the 1st openly gay NFL player, this would be the worst prelude imaginable.”

Do signs point to Manti Te’o being gay—and would that make you forgive the hoax? Or does it sound like he’s just a really weird guy. Weigh in below in the comments section!

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  • yaoming

    I must be gay. I had to look up who Troy Aikman is.

  • Bee Gaga

    @yaoming: Here here girlfriend me too lol a lil too much fake tanner on ms. aikman

  • Chris

    I must be straight, because I’ve known who Troy Aikman is for 20 years…ahhh stereotypes

    I feel really bad for this guy. Of course he could have made certain decisions that would have garnered less sympathy and brought less attention to himself. Namely saying he was dumped instead of claiming his imaginary girlfriend died of cancer without weeks of his grandmother passing away. He should have known his status as a collegiate athlete and Heisman candidate would guarantee media intervention and catapulting him into the spotlight. He’s still trying to ride the “I was duped” train which offers no explanation for his claims that he met her in 2009, nor does it explain why he was so enamored with this 4 year relationship and never met her once. In that position it is tough to realize you can’t feed people that much bullshit and switch gears. If he wants to buy time to solidify his professional career, he needs to get Kevin Spacey’s PR rep immediately. He’s already shown he isn’t capable of handling this by himself.

    I’m not denying that him coming out would be huge. He would be in every GLBT history book published from this day forward and possibly reach an iconic status akin to Harvey Milk or Freddie Mercury, assuming he has a healthy professional career. He’s one of the most decorated collegiate footballers in history and is guaranteed to be drafted first round. But he could come out following the draft or in the next few years and still attain that status, so buying time to prove himself and earn respect can only help him.

    Coming out could cause internal issues on a team, at least in a rookie or sophomore season, that coaches feel are best solved by releasing him, but he’s so good that it would not be an easy decision. If he can break out and have a rookie season like Von Miller it would be a gold pass.

    I can be as idealistic as the next gay, but the NFL is the most religious and homophobic organization in US professional sports. There are…2? players in the league currently who have even voiced support for GLBT rights (i.e. acknowledging their existence): Kluwe and Ayanbadejo, and Ayanbadejo was threatened for his support. He received a cease-and-desist letter from a Maryland state delegate who opposes gay marriage. Kluwe got wind of the letter and fired back a vitriolic response, so these two guys are making a solid effort to spread influence, yet no other players have stepped forward and joined them.

    Considering the environment he grew up in and what he surrounded himself with in college, if Te’o comes out it would be the ballsiest coming-out moment in decades. The good thing is he has the achievements so far to hopefully mitigate most of the backlash. It would be comparable to Rock Hudson coming out when he was a heartthrob. Te’o’s a Samoan, the majority of which are Christian and very homophobic, honestly most gay Samoans I know don’t have any contact with their families. He’s Notre Dame alumnus, a Catholic university that has struggled recently with GLBT tolerance. I think they tried to ban someone from speaking at their school because they were gay? For the trifecta, Te’o is on a direct path to the NFL.

    There’s players in the league now that are gay, but they won’t come out, and we all know how closeted gays tend to be more vicious towards outed gays to remove any doubt.

    Te’o will be making some gut-wrenching decisions in the near future and I don’t think anyone in the country would want to be in his position right now. It must feel like he’s got 20 tons on his back. Piling up more lies would not be effective, and he can buy time but at the risk of estranging people close to him who expect honesty and confidence from him. His family is probably in denial right now, but they’ll soon accept he made it all up, then they’ll wonder why. They’ll never say he’s gay until he does it himself.

  • JasonMacBride

    Maybe Teo and Tebow will play for the same team.

  • mz.sam

    Once the Media and the speculating public backs off from this Te’o hoax firestorm, innocent victim Manti can proceed with his life one step-at-a-time: 1) Focus on football career…2) Attain his Heisman Trophy…3) Play for the NFL…4) Online date with Tebow…5) and retire as a FALCON All-Star…(porn, that is).

  • SFHarry

    I think he was just trying to survive in there very homophobic worlds(Somoan/Christianity, Catholic/College, and Football).
    I think the most important thing to remember here is that he made up a girlfriend who died, HE DIDN’T KILL HER!

  • Jeffery

    The most important thing to understand in this situation, Te’o is from Hawaii which is a very gay friendly state. If he is gay, his parents would certainly know. Which makes it all the more plausible for it to be true. His father even told reporters he had spoken to his girlfriend on the phone, etc.

    This was a hoax, yes. But it was created by Te’o to do either of the following; create a better case for the Heisman, or to hide his sexuality.

    I can understand the guy hiding his sexuality. He is a sports figure and attended a Catholic college. We all want to play hero and tell celebs to come on out, but in reality it is very challenging for them in a sense that none of us can really understand. Not to mention this guy is a Mormon and could be excommunicated. The main factor that plays in this dilemma is religion.

    Further, if this was a hoax created for media exposure to eventually get the Heisman trophy, fuck him and the dildo he rode in on.

    From a fellow Hawaii resident

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