Reporting John Shumway
PITTSBURGH (KDKA/93-7 THE FAN) — It’s a story that has the nation and the world talking.
It was a tragic love story that prompted an outpouring of support for a college football star at Norte Dame.
But now, many are shaking their heads after it was revealed the story of Manti Te’o and his girlfriend who died of leukemia was a hoax.
Shortly after Te’o’s grandmother and alleged girlfriend both died on the same day in September, the Notre Dame superstar and Heisman candidate spoke from the heart about this girlfriend.
KDKA’s John Shumway Reports:
“She letter she said ‘Remember, be humble, be gracious and always remember that I love you,’” Te’o, a linebacker, said back in October.
His inspired play and emotional story prompted an outpouring from a touched nation; but the sports blog, Deadspin, started looking into Lennay Kekua’s death from leukemia.
“There was no death notice, no obituary, no announcement of her funeral,” Jack Dickey, a Deadspin.com writer, said.
“This was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax,” Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said. “Manti was the victim of that hoax.”
Te’o, in a statement, says his relationship with Kekua developed online and with endless hours on the phone. Who he was talking to is unknown.
The woman in the pictures has been identified and was unaware her image was being used in a hoax; and Te’o now admits he was duped and is humiliated.
But he knew about the hoax in early December and told Notre Dame on Dec. 26, and yet he never tried to correct it prior to the national championship game or until now.
“To me, it’s inconceivable for a guy to be duped in that manner that way,” Ralph Cindrich, a sports agent, said.
Te’o is heading towards the NFL Draft, and Cindrich says he’s got a problem.
“Any team now with half a brain, we’ll exclude the New York Jets, will have to do a thorough review of this because you’re putting so much money in a guy, and a guy taken that high is extremely important,” said Cindrich.
Cindrich says Te’o needs a public relations person and a criminal lawyer to make sure he’s clear.
“Then, if he wants to play in the NFL, he’s got to come clean, completely,” said Cindrich.
If Te’o was somehow involved in the hoax, attorney Marty Lazzaro says “this is an issue of credibility more than it is an issue of legality.”
But Lazzaro says if Te’o is indeed the victim.
Lazzaro: “It’s called intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
KDKA’s John Shumway: “So he can sue?”
Meanwhile, Deadspin reporter, Dom Cosentino, joined Starkey and Miller with Colin Dunlap on Sports Radio 93-7 The FAN to talk about all the latest information his site has acquired since originally breaking the story.
Cosentino, from Pittsburgh, said the only piece of this story missing right now is Te’o actually standing up and giving his side of the story.
In the original Deadspin article, there was a quote from someone associated with Te’o saying he was “80 percent” sure Te’o knew what was going on and was part of the hoax. There hasn’t been any new information coming out either proving or disproving this, but Cosentino said he would have a hard time believing Te’o didn’t know about this given everything we’ve found out so far.
Listen to the full interview with Dom Cosentino here:
We also tried to get to the bottom of how long this fake relationship was going on between Te’o and the made-up girlfriend, and Cosentino showed us how unclear the answer to that question is, and why it’s so important for Te’o to speak before people begin coming to their own conclusions.
An interesting side note to this story is an Arizona Cardinals player claiming he met the fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. We also talked with Dom about some of the different people who are now associated with this story.