Was Manti Te’o Really Tricked Into Thinking His Girlfriend Died?

So this is awkward. (Getty)

This is a slightly confusing but extremely fascinating story of a hoax either played on Notre Dame quarterback Manti Te’o and the sport world, or a hoax played by Manti Te’o on the sports world. So prepare yourself.

Let’s start with the basics. Manti Te’o is a quarterback at Notre Dame, who just lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game last week. That made him sad. Which was sad because he’s had a tough time with the recent death of his grandmother and his girlfriend. Except what is even more sad is the last person didn’t even exist. And Deadspin found out and wrote an entire investigative report which may or show Manti made up his girlfriend in a big publicity stunt. Or was completely duped into thinking he had a girlfriend, who then passed away a tragically. See? Sad.

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Manti has apparently spent the last semester grieving the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend who both died in September. The grandmother actually passed away, but the girlfriend is a different story. This “girlfriend” is named Lennay Kekua and Manti has described her in interviews as “the love of my life.” They were in a long distance relationship and she was supposedly a Stanford graduate student. Multiple outlets including the Associated Press, the LA Times, CBS, etc have reported on Lennay, who was in a terrible car accident and then got leukemia and died.

Now, the truth has come out that there was no Lennay. The girl whose picture was being used on a fake Twitter account, and splashed all over news outlets, is actually a girl who is very much alive and had no idea any of this was happening. She did however, reveal that a friend of hers asked her to take a picture with a sign that said “MSMK” and she did so. It was then, unbeknownst to her, used as a cover photo in a fake Twitter account for Lennay. (We still don’t know what MSMK meant.) Her friend that requested this is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. He (along with an unknown girl) is presumably the person behind the “Lennay” persona that catfished Manti.

Manti often tweeted to this account, talked to a cancer victim’s family about how Lennay was friends with children with cancer, and sent Lennay white roses to her funeral. He said he didn’t go to her funeral because she told him not to miss a game. He also apparently talked to her on the phone while she was in a coma and fell asleep listening to her breathing. But even though he’s made it seem like he had actually met Lennay in person, he is now saying he was in an online/phone relationship with her and never met her in real life. He also said he is incredibly embarrassed. (Duh.) Some ND-haters think he was in on the hoax and was using it as a big publicity stunt.

We don’t know that we are buying that, it seems much more likely he was tricked into the whole thing and Notre Dame has released a statement and held a press conference making it clear they feel he was a victim. The school said Manti was called by Lennay’s phone number in December and a voice that sounded like hers said “I’m not dead.” (How creepy must that have been?!) He reported it to Notre Dame and they’ve been launching their own investigation into the hoax.

We’d come up with a really witty, searing kicker making fun of Manti Te’o for being so naive and involving the world and many different news organizations in this hoax but probably the national embarrassment is enough for the poor kid.

In fact, this is so pathetic, we kind of hope he was in on the whole thing.