“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, 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 the 2009 football game where they allegedly first met—and and to have spoken with 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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  • erinwanze

    I can’t figure out why he would have made it up for any other reason than his sexuality. He was considered a contender for the Heisman, he will probably be a first round NFL draft pick, and he’s a reasonably good looking guy. He would not have a problem getting a real girlfriend if he actually wanted one.

  • yaoming

    Gay or stupid (or both)?

  • yaoming

    …or maybe just sad.

  • Tracy

    What a story. I had no idea who he was until a couple of days ago. Anyway, best of luck to him.

  • GayTampaCowboy

    Let’s not forget that Te’o is also a MORMON and we all know how that “religion” feels about gay folks! Let’s also consider that IF Te’o was using this ruse to cover up a relationship with a man – that that MAN has feelings and needs too and my worry is that this mystery man, be it Tuiasosopo or someone else, keeping a secret like this is equal to that of military secrets. I’m betting this spun out of control – out of HIS control and he was hoping it would just go away – thus having his fake girlfriend pass away.

    And, when people start asking themselves, WHY? Why would Te’o do this? Well, if he is gay, it’s not a huge stretch to understand why Te’o, as a human being, has needs to be loved and accepted and among all the stress and pressures he was under, to have someone in his life he could truely be himself with. Ask any of the millions of “now-out” gay men who lived days, weeks, months, years, decades – even near entire lifetimes as “str8” men – only to finally come out – or be outed. They will tell you the kind of HELL it was to balance the truth with the lies..the ends they would go thru to keep their secret, YET, find a person or outlet to be “themselves.”

    Do i think Te’o is gay. I’m not sure. Do i think there’s more to this story – alot more? YES! And, if he IS gay, there’s no doubt that there will be more than ONE man in Te’o’s past and if they are out there – they will surface.

    While, some say that this “hoax” and potential “cover up” could damage Te’o his NFL future – and the future of many closeted professional athletes. I’m not so sure. He could be the EXACT person to shed light on the kinds of pressures gay folks – and specifically high-profile athletes – go thru. Add to that the social/religious pressures, and even the most “together” and brilliant people will do incredible things and go to unbelievable lenghts to cover their true selves.

    Lets also remember, Te’o is a first-class linebacker. And while some NFL teams might pass on drafting him if he’s found to be gay – there are MANY teams who would JUMP at the chance to get a premier player like him on their team. Is the NFL ready for an out gay player? Not sure, but you know what? They don’t have a say in the matter!

    I’ll be watching this story closely – i think there are MANy chapters yet to be written before the book is closed!

  • Tracy

    Or he could be suffering from some sort of psychosis that put him in a relationship with an imaginary woman.

  • Cam

    He is MORMON. Mormons have girlfriends and tend to marry young. What would the only excuse he could use for not dating somebody at his school? “Oh, I already have a girlfriend long distance”.

    And when his team or family started questioning why they hadn’t met her yet, easy…he just says she died.

    This is what the Mormon closet does.

  • Tommy25

    It still doesn’t make sense to me. Why create an imaginary person online and then go on and on about how she died and how upset you were to make people feel sorry for you? Why not do what closeted gay men have done since the beginning of time? Get a female friend who is a real person to pretend to be your girlfriend. A lot easier. Doesn’t he have any real life female friends? It seems to me lots of females would pretend to be his girlfriend just for the publicity.

  • OJDidIt

    If Te’o was actively involved in this elaborate lie, expect the house of cards to come tumbling down rather quickly. In this Internet-information driven age in which we live, secrets are very hard to hide, and in this instance whoever devised the whole fictitious relationship started out with a very significant lie in ‘creating’ “Lennay” and every comment about her, fake telephone call with her, strategically placed tweets/Facebook posts only adds to the house of lies and so greatly compounds the gravity and negative significance of this situation. This whole thing went from being a guy claiming he had a girlfriend at another school to later this same guy, either as victim or co-conspirator, being convinced to violate all codes of decency and baseline morals by lying about his fictitious girlfriend’s tragic death at 22 from leukemia– within hours of his grandmother’s death. If Te’o was an active participant in any of these seemingly endless string of unthinkable lies– regardless the reason– he needs to seek professional help and although unlikely, I would find it completely fair to have an across the boards revote for the awards he won this fall as these lies so greatly influenced the level of attention, sympathy and media-induced adoration he received this fall. Beyond the gay question and how it impacts his transition to the NFL, I am confident that first and foremost on the minds of every NFL scout, coach and executive is the question of whether Te’o is a pathological liar. I would never draft or sign a player I felt I couldn’t trust entirely. If I was an NFL Head Coach I should be able to leave a million dollars in cash on an unattended table in the football complex trusting no player of mine would even consider touching it, let alone stealing some money. If Te’o was knowingly and actively part of this elaborate and twisted lie he should get immediately expelled from Notre Dame (ND has a very strict honor code) and no NFL team should consider drafting or signing him. I hope he somehow actually was the unknowing victim in all of this and that he will be a high draft pick, but if he is as mentally unstable as such actions would indicate, the last thing he needs to think about is the NFL. Of course, when there’s talent, exceptions are made and as sad as it may be, there is an accepted code of double standards for the most elite athletes. Like a Lawrence Phillips, Adam ‘Pac-Man’ Jones or Michael Irvin can get away with infinitely more transgressions than an average NFL player, undoubtedly even if Te’o masterminded this entire hoax, talent will win out (unfortunately) and some coach will take a flyer on this emotionally and mentally damaged player. I’d be shocked if Te’o went undrafted and unsigned. Also, given the altered mental state needed to construct such a complex web of lies– possibly to hide his homosexuality– I doubt Te’o would come out and admit he is gay (if that was the impetus for this out of control hoax) anytime soon. Unlike an Andy Pettitte who admitted what PEDs he took and apologized and has been very well regarded since, this situation unfortunately seems to be so ingrained in Te’o psyche that I cannot conceive of any truly honest/forthright interviews/statements with Te’o anytime soon. If he participated in this elaborate lie/hoax, it’s also fair to ask whether he even knows how not to lie??? I envision his fall from grace if implicated as an actively involved participant in this to be much more along the lines of a Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Raphael Palmiero, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Roger Clemens. The fallen hero as pariah, outcast and shameful example of what never to do. I wish Mr. Te’o nothing but the best and sincerely hope that he has been truthful with the Notre Dame Athletic Department. If he genuinely is the victim in all of this, the way he’s handled these pressures will only serve to further build up his transcendent hero into god-like being status. I truly hope there is no house of cards to come tumbling down, no web of lies to unweave. It would be so unbelievably nice in this case for one of those men we’ve come to regard as a gridiron hero to not let us all down like so many countless other former players before him. I’m hopeful he was the innocent victim in everything, but that being said I plan to stand well back and out of the way as that house of cards could potentially collapse around Manti Te’o at any moment.

  • Dionte

    I hope he’s straight, this is not a good look.

  • Merv

    Maybe he invented her to keep his grandma happy. Once grandma was dead, there was no reason the keep the girlfriend alive. Next time, consider a breakup instead of leukemia.

    (For OJDidIt: Paragraphs!)

  • ceverdc

    My first thought upon hearing that the girlfriend was a hoax was that Manti Te’o was a young man in pain.

    I have seen similar situations played out many times in my life with friends and their children who were having difficulties coming to terms with their lives. Because of the need for “acceptance” by youth in our society, some find themselves pressured to conformed to the so-called “norms” of society.

    Whether or not Te’o is gay is yet to be determined, and — truth to be told — is his business and should be the concern of no one else.

    Perhaps he is simply a young man who is so involved with his academic and athletic lives that he simply didn’t have time for a romantic life. Maybe he got involved romantically in an online relationship. Many adults with many more years of experience than he have done so — and far worse. We all put ourselves at risk for manipulation when we enter these types of relationships.

    If all of this turns out to have been a cover for Te’o’s (weakly rumored) homosexuality, it is totally understandable.

    How fair is it for a society to place a young man — an AMATEUR COLLEGIATE athlete — under a microscope? How fair is it of us to place wagers based on his performance? To make millions on his back, but in turn not allow him the freedom and privacy to be his own man?

    If Te’o used this situation to garner attention and to raise his possible draft status, I take my hat off to him; his has already mastered the game of professional sports marketing — and without a high-dollar sports agent!

    As Te’o moves on to the NFL, I hope that he comes into his own in terms of dealing with the spotlight, and with sharing with the world on his own terms. His life will be under much less of a magnifying glass now, and I expect him to have a bright career playing on Sundays.

  • Charles175

    If it be the case that this guy (as a Mormon) actually did fabricate this story to cover the fact that he is gay, I hope that it comes out. I say this because we are still a society that believes very strongly that every person on the planet should be hetero married. As a direct result, there are so many forced (sham) hetero to homo marriages that usually end in disaster it isn’t funny. So to bring to an end this forced pairing, forced marriage practice and thus ending the predictable heartache as a result, let gays marry whom they really love. Problem solved.

  • ScherryK

    My question would be “who cares whether the guy is gay, straight, Bi or a freakin FISH?? Its his business!! Leave him ALONE! Is this America or friggen Hitlers Germany?

  • mz.sam

    Assuming that Teo is a Gay Mormon, his football career will remain intact and probably succeed in the months to come…as long as he come clean with his sexuality where the current society and a younger generation could care less about sexual labels. Welcome to the New Normal!

  • p-candotorg

    Thought of this exactly what came to my mind instantly.
    I had invented girl friends several times “with strict parents that won’t her let out and about easely” in the 70s to keep the question “why don’t you have a girlfriend” away.
    It was easy did not have to show her off and a few futile pics of a knowing friend kept unwanted questions in check. Hope he can deal with it all and continue his life in any direction he wishes.

  • hotshot70

    I think he kept it going so the NFL would notice him. How dumb do you have to be to not know if your “girlfriend” is real or not. I think he might be gay and wants to hide it.

  • stonrdude

    I used to date a girl and have a BF on the side, she got a lot of dinners and movies, my BF got something else! No muss, no fuss!

  • Musk

    I hadn’t done a lot of reading about this “news event” to know any details about it. But this story kept popping up in a variety of different situations in my life. So, I decided that this news item had some merit to it. I put an effort in to find out what that merit was/is, and after enlightening myself about this, I wish I could still say, “I hadn’t really done a lot of reading about this “news event” to know any details about it.”

    In conclusion, after a slit second of thoughtful consideration, I’ve decided that this guy is either gay or straight, or something in between.

  • Bob LaBlah

    If EVER a “religion” existed that was totally full of shit one need look no further than the Church of Latter-Day Saints. These people started this religion with no one else in mind but god fearing WHITE people.
    Normally I do not watch tv news because it ALL has turned into nothing else but entertainment but the other day when I saw the interview with this poor, confused and obviously NON-WHITE kid I felt sorry for him because his facial expression and response to the “tradgedy” had GAY written all over it.
    This should be the poster case for how this trash being passed off in the form of religion confuses the young and will make them do and say anything to hide the truth. It seems so hard to believe that in the year 2013 people STILL believe there is a man in the sky who created all of this and if they do not follow the words of his “mortals” they will not be allowed into this “paradise” when the inevitable happens.

  • Spike

    Curious how the original story played out in the national media, provided he and ND a great deal of publicity that no doubt helped in his being a Heisman candidate.

    Curious, how not a single media source questioned there being not a single picture of he and the GF together prior to her claimed death.

    The guy is a mormon, playing football for Catholic University, EVERYONE went along with the story because it portrayed him as str8t. He will be coming out, probably in an Oprah interview, sooner then later.

  • FunMe

    What he Teo really said:

    “This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about as I have been trying to hide who I am. But over an extended period of time, I made up a fake girlfriend and pretended I met her online. I perpetuated a lie by saying it was an authentic relationship that I communicated with her frequently online and on the phone, or that I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that my way of covering up my gayness backfired on me now that I am a sick joke because of my constant LIES is painful and humiliating.”

    There fixed it for you. You’re welcome.

  • Bob LaBlah

    @FunMe: Your good. I almost believe he really said that until I read the last sentence. You are also correct.

  • ScherryK

    I just wanted to mention to you people talking about how a mormon cant be gay that I was baptised a mormon and I am Bi.

  • FunMe

    @Bob LaBlah: :-)

  • Bob LaBlah

    @FunMe:Please forgive my ignorance but what does that sign you responded with mean?

  • Pete

    this guy comes from an incredibly conservative culture. i’m thinking the hoax was motivated by fear of sex, period. a convenient excuse not to go out tom-catting with his teammates.

  • hotshot70

    Te’O is a lot like Tebow. Beth have their religious beliefs causing issues with their sex life. I think they are both gay and should both meet in private and go WILD! They could release all their “pressure” and develop a long lasting friendship (with possible benefits). Between comparing Bible stories and praying, they can be on their knees for a more “pleasurable” reason.

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