A heart-wrenching thread through this past college football season was that of Manti Te’o, a well-liked Heisman candidate from Notre Dame whose girlfriend Lennay Kekua, a reported Stanford student, died of cancer the same day that Te’o’s grandmother passed away.
But on Wednesday, one of Nick Denton’s websites, Deadspin, reported that Kekua wasn’t a real person. At the very least, Te’o, who, some have argued, used Kekua’s story to boost his popularity in college football, was "Catfished" by a group of soul-less Internet pranksters. Or, at the very worst, was in on the hoax the entire time.
Te’o, in a statement, said it was the former. But on Wednesday night a Twitter account with the same name that had reportedly began the lore of Lennay Kekua in the first place tweeted the following (though there was no way to verify the account’s owners):
It isn’t fair to drag Reagan and Troy into this.. a lot of truths and myths need to be addressed here, and they will be at noon PST tomorrow
Others reported that at least one NFL player swore he met Kekua and she was indeed real while others, such as Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton, began poking holes in Te’o statement.
The problem with that: What about the anecdote that Manti Te’o and Lennay Kekua met, exchanged numbers on the field at Stanford in 2009?
Pete Thamel, one of the many well-known sports reporters who was duped by the Kekua story, added this:
The big question here is whether Te’o was involved or not. Notre Dame is staking a loud claim that he got duped and had no involvement.
Nev Schulman, the host of the MTV show “Catfish,” who perhaps is the most famous face of a fake Internet girlfriend, assured his followers he was looking into it.
So what do you think? What did Te’o know and when? And who is Lennay Kekua? Also, crisis communication experts—any ideas on how Te’o can get out of this one before the NFL draft?
[Photo by Flickr user Neon Tommy]