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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid