Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend Never Existed, According To Deadspin

  • Dylan Murphy

Welp, there goes the internet.

A little over an hour ago, Deadspin’s Tim Burke and Jack Dickey published what could be the biggest sports story since the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Manti Te’o — near-Heisman winner and probable first round pick in April’s NFL Draft — is either involved in, or is the victim of, an elaborate hoax. According to Deadpsin, his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who supposedly died on the same day as Te’o’s grandmother, and whose death served as one of the more compelling and inspirational subplots of this college football season, never actually existed.

Yep. Burke and Dickey were exhaustive in their fact-checking, and the piece itself is a long one, but when you have a moment, look at it. Because it’s going to be talked about for a while.

Earlier in the hour, Burke went on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio to discuss the story, and noted that there’s no direct evidence as to whether Te’o knew about the hoax. According to Deadspin’s report — which, again, is comprehensive — it’s pretty obvious that Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed. The next question is: how much did Manti Te’o know? Does this fall on the sad/naive end of the spectrum, where a star linebacker never actually met an online girlfriend, but purported to — and made up details about meeting her — in order to keep up appearances? Or does this fall somewhere darker? Did Manti Te’o, from the very beginning, know that a dead girlfriend subplot (jeez) would help his media push for a Heisman?

Shortly after the story was published, Notre Dame issued a statement in response (here’s the transcript, via Joe Schad):

Whoa. Just whoa.

UPDATE: Manti Te’o has released a statement, which is hopefully more real than Lennay Kekua. Here it is:

“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.

“It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

“In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.

“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

To be continued.