Te’o girlfriend hoax creates confusion, could impact draft stock


The inspiring story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o became a lot more uplifting during the 2012 season, when it was revealed that he was playing in the wake of a pair of personal losses — his grandmother and his girlfriend had died.

But his girlfriend didn’t die.  She didn’t die because she never existed.

Yes, Lennay Kekua didn’t exist.  Thus, the many media accounts regarding her relationship with Te’o and her eventual passing in September 2012, were false.  As were the on-the-record references to her by Te’o.

They were with me,” Te’o told ESPN after an upset of Michigan State that came days after Te’o’s grandmother died and his girlfriend actually didn’t.  “I couldn’t do it without them, I couldn’t do it without the support of my family and my girlfriend’s family.  I’m so grateful for all the love and the support that all the fans both from Michigan State and Notre Dame and fans around the world for just supporting me and my family and my girlfriend’s family.  I miss them.  I miss them.  But I know that I’ll see them again one day.”

Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey of Deadspinhave unearthed the hoax, exposing it via an item so detailed and compelling that the folks at Notre Dame had no choice but to promptly acknowledge that, indeed, there was no, and is no, Lennay Kekua.

Roughly an hour after the story surfaced, Notre Dame issued the following statement acknowledging that there was no, and is no, Lennay Kekua:  “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.”

The Notre Dame statement creates more questions than it answers, because it paints Te’o as the victim.  But how can Te’o be the victim of a false relationship that apparently involved more than online contact between Te’o and someone who never existed?  Te’o and Kakua supposedly had met, she supposedly had visited him in Hawaii, and he supposedly had spent hours interacting with her and her family via phone.

Meanwhile, it’s convenient to say the least that Notre Dame became aware of the hoax the day after Christmas and said nothing about it until after the story broke.

The Deadspin item seems to imply strongly that Te’o wasn’t the victim but the instigator, possibly working with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (a member of the well-known Tuiasosopo football family) to manufacture a personal tragedy for the purposes of widespread publicity — publicity that nearly resulted in Te’o becoming the first true defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy.

Te’o has many questions to answer regarding the situation.  Regardless of whether he does so publicly, he’ll be doing so privately in the interviews and meetings that will precede the draft.  Teams will want to know whether he can be trusted, and likewise what flaw possibly exists in his personality to prompt the fabrication of a girlfriend who would die during the season and draw Gipper-like attention to his football career.

“It could be ugly,” one league source with extensive knowledge of the pre-draft process told PFT.

Actually, it’s already ugly.

UPDATE 6:56 p.m. ET:  Te’o has issued a statement that also paints him as the victim of a hoax.

112 responses to “Te’o girlfriend hoax creates confusion, could impact draft stock

  1. If he will go to this lengths of an individual award in college. I wouldn’t want him on my team in the pros. After reading the article I don’t see how he wasn’t apart of this whole hoax.

  2. Am I the only one who finds it incredibly ironic that the Mormon linebacker is behind what may be the greatest hoax in sports history?

  3. Ugly and sad. Te’o had to have made it up. No way he could carry on a supposed relationship like that with someone who never existed. No way a hoaxer puts that kind of front on for that long.

  4. If he fell to my team in the NFL draft, I would pass. Too many red flags with this young man. Not even two Notre Dame alums would be able to vouch for him.

  5. To sum up – Te’o is sick – either figurative or literally.

    The dude needs help if he’s evening thinking up stuff like this.

    It’ll be ironic if they did this simply for their own entertainment – as they’re about to be front and center on stage doing a tap dance to the public to weasel their way out of this one.

  6. How could Te’o call his girlfriend “the love of his life” in numerous interviews? Seriously, he claims he was the victim of an “online hoax.” I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the love of MY life would be someone that I, you know, have met before. How he’s trying to claim he’s the victim is preposterous. Get ready to welcome this nut as one of your own, Jets fans!

  7. If he was the victim of a hoax then why did Notre Dame keep quiet for almost a month? Things don’t add up. I wonder how many spots he will drop in the draft.

  8. The Deadspin article does a lot of insinuating about Tuiasasopo and Te’o’s relationship. I think there is more coming from a good Mormon boy who happens to be an all-american LB for a Catholic school, and it might be pretty groundbreaking news.

  9. Very strange story. I guess it’s possible that he also didn’t know, and the fictional girlfriend was a real preson, pretending to this fictitious girl.

    It sounds odd, but what about this story doesn’t?

  10. Vontazr Burfict might be mocking him come draft day. Truth be told, of course, if he played like Clowney, instead of being clowned by Alabama, no one would care one whit about all of this.

  11. bgdabengal says: Jan 16, 2013 6:47 PM


    Hell ya, Bengals would love to have him. Be better than Maualuga. Hope he does fall like Burfict did. That worked out pretty well for the Bengals.

  12. Why does this guy scream “Belichek will draft me late first round, mess with my easily-messed-with-head, and make me in to a ridiculously good player?”

  13. I did notice the number of reports of her (Kekua’s) death go back and forth. I originally heard she died the day after. Then it was hours later. Then it was days later.

    Also, I found it odd he told the LA Times he wasn’t going to the funeral because she insisted he not mis the game.

    It sounded fishy but I didn’t give it a second thought.

  14. fitz66 says:
    Jan 16, 2013 6:31 PM
    So he wasn’t whiffing tackles against Alabama…he was hugging his girlfriend.

  15. Can’t wait to learn when and how the Teos learned it was a hoax.

    [The Heisman ceremony was on Dec 8.]

  16. If you work hard, boys and girls, you can grow up to have a fake girlfriend like that too.

    Brent Musburger

  17. Everyone take it easy. Remember that a woman who didn’t exist died. All that fake family has gone through. Absolute tragedy. And now the fictional family being made a national joke.

  18. In the deadspin article it states that he had “met” her in Hawaii several times which of course never happened and also he was friends Ronaiah Tuiasosopo so this ploy of Manti to say he was hoaxed is complete bull.

  19. Credit to Deadspin for picking up on all the cues that seem obvious in retrospect that something wasn’t right.

    Though even here, it’s hard not to feel that Deadspin is showing its Gawker roots.

  20. Remember in Napolean Dynamite when Napolean’s brother Chip was dating “LaFonda” online saying they were “very close” although he’d never met her?

    At least she WAS REAL! She got off the bus at the end of the movie.


  21. I’ll reserve my judgments until we get definite information. He could be behind it, though he could have lied about actually meeting her, to avoid the shame of being involved with someone he’d never actually met in person. Someone who, *maybe* coincidentally didn’t exist in the first place.

    Just trying to look at it from another perspective.

  22. This riddle has 2 possible answers and neither are good. He either perpetrated a hoax or fell for one. Either way, this young linebacker has now lost a real grandmother, a fake girlfriend and a whole lot of credibility. This April, he will find out about lost earning potential.

  23. His stock plummeted after his last game.

    Look on the brightside….at least he doesn’t have to give back the Heisman!

  24. And what does it say about the character of Brian Kelly and Notre Dame……big time successful D1 coach keeps his mouth shut when he knows about a situation…. all in the name of keeping the Name from being tarnished……Paterno……Tressel……Kelly…..all completely different stories but with one common thread…..above all don’t tell.

  25. I’d still take him #1 overall.

    Then again, that’s why I don’t run an actual franchise.

    – Mel Kiper Jr.

  26. Dumb or dumber? So either he was foolish and fell for a cruel elaborate hoax, or he went to the Sir Lancelot Armstrong school of living and growing a huge lie for his own gain. Not good no matter where the truth lies……

  27. Hopefully, he did this out of embarrassment out of an online relationship with someone he had never met. If not he has some significant issues that eventually will come to the surface. Before this broke wanted the Lions to reach and take him in the 1st round now hoping they pass on him. We don’t need this kinda baggage.

  28. What is going to hurt his draft stock is the way alabama exposed him to real football in the SEC.

  29. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says:
    Jan 16, 2013 8:03 PM
    Don’t rush to judgment on this one. Wait until the facts come out. Cut this honorable young man some slack — he is only guilty of being naive and trusting someone to the fullest extent. Sounds very difficult to believe, but that is what went down.

    But Te’o is telling the truth. Sounds insane, but the man is telling the straight truth.

    I am no Notre Dame fan and in fact root against the Irish against just about everybody they play — but I do know what game is being played here. Fact. Serious as a heart attack.

    I’m just blown away that this game is being played at this level now.

  30. Could this actually improve his draft stock? The big knock on Te’O was really that he looked terrible against Alabama, a team that features many NFL class players. Whether he was in on the hoax or not, if he found out on the 26th that this story is going to come out to the public you can imagine it would strongly affect his play. So maybe his one bad game was the fault of a hoax? Maybe ND wins if this never happens? (kidding)

  31. I don’t really care if he made the hoax up or not. What matters to me, is he went along with it after he so called found out it was a hoax, and continued to do interviews talking about it and continued making people feel sorry for him. If this story wouldn’t have broke he nor Notre Dame would have never came clean about this. That makes him a fraud and liar, and I wouldn’t draft this guy at all. I think it was all for publicity, and I hope he gets what he deserves, and no NFL team picks this little punk up.

  32. “Te’o represents everything the Heisman stands for. Johnny Jailbird shouldn’t get the Heisman because he doesn’t have integrity”

    -Countless ND fans

    This shouldn’t affect his draft stock, getting blown off the line time after time by nfl caliber linemen in the biggest game of his career should afffect his draft stock.

  33. Forget fearing the draft. Manti is fearing the day he has to enter the lockerroom with the players for the team that picks him.

    Can you imagine the crap he’s going to take at training camp from the veterans?


  34. Drew Brees needs an explanation. Another carefully crafted hoax brought to you by the same institution that was ranked #1 and is always given every benefit of any doubt and is always over rated. This won’t go away unless Te’o comes clean or is actually telling it straight.This will go thermonuclear shortly. Best advice :start on your combine training ,don’t show up for draft day in N.Y. city. Hire a P.R. firm ,you are going to need it.

  35. People will forgive this clown and all his talk of God but isn’t he just like those slime ball TV evangelists that con you into handing them your hard earned money!!

  36. Vontazr Burfict might be mocking him come draft day. Truth be told, of course, if he played like Clowney, instead of being clowned by Alabama, no one would care one whit about all of this.
    The only difference is Clowney is not compelte an utter garbage. He would never do this to try to win a Heisman or win a Butkus award he can rely on his skills. Te’o is truly something and I don’t mean that in a good way. I will laugh at him falling drastically in the draft.

  37. The only way out of this is on the gay highway – Yep, he’ll have to be gay and then it is society’s fault that a gay Hawaiian wouldn’t be accepted so he and Twoasswiththesoappo had to hide their relationship but he knew it was wrong so they killed the girl…and he’s an instant hero…drafted by San Francisco, not that there’s anything wrong with that. By the way, what does his grandmother have to say about all this?

  38. Everyone involved in this breaking story had to know it was going to hit the headlines eventually. Didn’t they??

    I might excuse Manti because he’s young and stupid thinking that phone and email records would never come into play. And for thinking that he’s an indestructible player on a winning team. And for being seduced by lots of media interest, the cameras, the microphones, and the fame that goes with it, not to mention his being a BMOC.

    But that his parents played a role in this charade indicates what kind of people they are I better see why Manti fell for this scam.

    All of them, Manti, his folks, his coaches at ND were all too afraid of coming clean when they found out about it. And now its a mess.

  39. But seriously who doesn’t love this? THIS is what the draft is all about people falling due to some crazy stories and the draft being SO unpredictable. As an NHL and NFL fan who knows alot about prospects I can tell you I dream the NHL draft would be like this.

  40. Notre Dame didnt offer the facts either! Great eithics from both the player and the school. sheesh!

  41. Watch the ESPN interview. He cannot look the interviewer in the eye while talking about his “girlfriend”. He keeps looking to the left or right and that is a dead giveaway that someone is lying.

  42. Wait just a sec. Am I understand that if a college player knowingly violates the law, takes illegal drugs, drinks and drives, commits violence crimes, or performs some other act that would get a regular citizen thrown in jail for a long time, that a college football players draft stock should NOT be affected by there? In the past media-types have said “oh well everyone makes mistakes, the kid deserves a second chance….blah blah”. Usually the “kids” that commit these acts are black and by the law of politcal correctness, they should automatically get a second chance and their draft stock should not be affected?
    But Te’o has amisunderstanding that affected NO ONE, his draft stock must somehow suffer b/c of it?

  43. Ppl come on this is not a hoax unless he is rly that dumb. Did anyone not see how aj mccarron met his girl on twitter and within a month was talking to her and met her? That’s called 2012… Too many ways like Skype,FaceTime to have at least seen this woman and with his access as a star player he def could have met her…this man was not hoaxed

  44. I hope he drops to the 2nd or 3rd round now and the redskins draft him to replace London fletcher when he retires! No better teacher to learn from than the iron man London for the Samoa machine manti!!!! HTTR

    I met my wife on Facebook and brought her here from Chile! One look at her and you will see why I went thru the trouble to marry her to keep her here!! if manti did get played the fool like that that sucks and has to be heart breaking thinking someone you loved died and then finding out it was all a prank!!!!

    one question tho didn’t he go to her funeral or talk with her family when she “died”????? seems kind of weird he just takes it as she is dead and doesn’t reach out to his gf family and attend a funeral!!!!

    I wonder if he is letting this come out now bc he wants to drop to a playoff team!!!! I hope the redskins can land him and te Tyler efiert and trade away that joke Fred Davis!!! HTTR

  45. Of course he’s going to say it is a hoax. What else can he say? That he told his family while they were grieving over his grandmother’s real death that his fake girlfriend had also passed away?

    What isn’t at all clear is why Notre Dame is so completely backing him in his absurd claims. Reading the Deadspin article it’s impossible to believe he WASN’T in on it. ND is going to be in far worse shape blindly backing him than if they’d simply kept a safe distance until more of the facts came out. Because NOBODY is going to buy the hoax story.

  46. Then he claims he didn’t go to the funeral because he was so locked in to the team and wanted to “be there for them”. They zoomed in the camera and talked like he overcame some great tragedy just to play. The guy is a fraud, plain and simple. Said it before any of this stuff broke, said it before the Alabama game. This just cements that fact.

  47. Who cares? I mean, it’s weird, but so what? Dude didn’t hurt anyone, and the whole thing is just stupid anyway.

    I’d never even heard of all this stuff until tonight, because I’m an adult male and teenage girl drama and gossip bores me. I swear, sometimes I think our nation has become so addicted to reality television that even grown men are turning into a bunch of drama queens. It’s actually embarrassing to watch other Americans get so worked up about this stupid stupid nonsense.

  48. It’s all a misunderstanding here are the facts. He named his left hand Lennay and one night he went to bed and slept wrong on his left side and woke up to a numb hand, therefore Lennay was dead for a few moments. I hope the clears it up

  49. I personally don’t believe he’s NFL material, BUT if team personnel guys think he is, i can’t imagine something this ridiculous would hurt his draft status.

  50. It’s incredible the lengths people will go to in order to cover up who they truly are… rather than just admit he’s gay, he manufactures an elaborate scam with a fake girlfriend so no one will question his sexuality? Dumbass.

  51. If it turns out he had any involvement in this, his draft stock will drop faster than blue ice from an airplane lavatory.

    On the side note, Lance Armstrong just texted Te’o and said, “Thanks”.

  52. The sad thing is that if Manti had been arrested for DUI/burglary or Domestic Violence, the NFL wouldn’t care or find this a problem at all and we all wouldn’t be talking about it.

  53. The reason his draft stock has dropped is he isn’t that good. He’s not a first or second round pick. Somebody will take a chance on him in the 3rd round. Look at the Championship game against NFL type talent. He was a non factor.

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