News / USA

American-Style Football Player Claims to be Victim of 'Hoax'

Mike Richman
An April 2012 photo of Notre Dame's linebacker Manti Te'o at the Blue and Gold spring NCAA college football game in South Bend, Indiana.An April 2012 photo of Notre Dame's linebacker Manti Te'o at the Blue and Gold spring NCAA college football game in South Bend, Indiana.
x
An April 2012 photo of Notre Dame's linebacker Manti Te'o at the Blue and Gold spring NCAA college football game in South Bend, Indiana.
An April 2012 photo of Notre Dame's linebacker Manti Te'o at the Blue and Gold spring NCAA college football game in South Bend, Indiana.
For months, American sports fans were moved by the achievements of a star collegiate player from one of the most famous American-style football teams, who said his outstanding play was inspired by the tragic death of his girlfriend.

The player, linebacker Manti Te'o, led the University of Notre Dame to 12 straight wins and a spot in college football's national championship game earlier this month.

But there was one problem, it was learned this week: Te'o's girlfriend never existed.

A fictional tragedy

On Wednesday, the sports website Deadspin reported that the whole story was fiction.  Notre Dame called it a "sophisticated hoax," and Te'o said he was the victim of a "sick joke."

The revelation has gone viral in the U.S., where major media outlets such as NBC and CNN have speculated on the motive behind the fictitious story, and whether Te'o perpetrated it himself or was the target of a joke.

Even White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked in his daily press conference Thursday whether he had spoken to President Barack Obama about the Te'o story.  Carney called the story "fascinating" but said he had not discussed it with the president.
 
The story is rooted in remarks made by Te'o during the 2012 football season, when he said his play was inspired by the leukemia-related death of Lennay Marie Kekua, a woman he described as his girlfriend.

He said Kekua and his grandmother died within hours of each other on the same day in September and vowed to honor both with dominating play on the field.  Leading American media, including The New York Times and Sports Illustrated magazine, commented on the death of Te'o's girlfriend and grandmother during the most recent football season.

A national championship star

Te'o, who is of Samoan descent, helped propel Notre Dame to its first college football national championship game in nearly a quarter-century. He was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, the award presented annually to the best college football player in the United States.  His team's only defeat came on Jan. 7, when the University of Alabama beat Notre Dame, 42-14, to win the national title.

Sports fans were stunned by the Deadspin report, which claimed that Kekua was a fictitious person invented by a friend of Te'o.

The website said it was unable to find any U.S. government record confirming the death of anyone named Lennay Marie Kekua, or confirming prior media reports that she had been a 22-year-old student at Stanford University in California.  The website did verify that Te'o's real grandmother, Annette Santiago, died on September 11, 2012, at age 72.

Deadspin also found the woman whose picture had been presented as that of Kekua.  It revealed that the photo was that of a living 22-year-old California woman who did not have leukemia and had never met Te'o.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick speaks to reporters during an NCAA college football news conference regarding a hoax involving linebacker Manti Te'o, January 16, 2013, in South Bend, Indiana.Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick speaks to reporters during an NCAA college football news conference regarding a hoax involving linebacker Manti Te'o, January 16, 2013, in South Bend, Indiana.
x
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick speaks to reporters during an NCAA college football news conference regarding a hoax involving linebacker Manti Te'o, January 16, 2013, in South Bend, Indiana.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick speaks to reporters during an NCAA college football news conference regarding a hoax involving linebacker Manti Te'o, January 16, 2013, in South Bend, Indiana.
In a news conference following the release of the Deadspin report, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Te'o had told the university about the hoax on December 26.  Swarbrick said a private investigation authorized by the university pointed to Te'o being the victim.

A "sophisticated hoax"

"This was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can't fully understand, but Manti was the perfect mark because he's a guy who is so willing to believe in others," Swarbrick said.

In a statement Wednesday, Te'o said he had met Kekua through the Internet.  He said he developed and "maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone."  It's unclear whether he ever indicated to anyone that he had met her in person.

He said, "To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating,"

Te'o will soon attend an off-season program aimed at allowing players to audition for the upcoming draft held by the professional National Football League.  He is expected to be a first-round pick.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid