Notre Dame Star's Uplifting Story Was a Hoax

Late girlfriend of Manti Te'o never existed, says Deadspin

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 16, 2013 5:01 PM CST

(Newser) – Sports website Deadspin has uncovered a doozy of a scoop in the world of college football: This year's inspirational tale of woe about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o looks to be an elaborate hoax. All season, fans heard how Te'o drew inspiration from girlfriend Lennay Kekua, who died of leukemia. Except Lennay Kekua never existed, despite countless stories in the media about her life and death. Deadspin even found the 22-year-old woman whose Facebook photo was used in the ruse as the face of Lennay, much to her surprise. The big question now—was Heisman finalist Te'o an accomplice or a victim? (Update: Te'o tells ESPN he is the victim of a "sick joke" and is embarrassed by the revelation. He says he and "Lennay" had communicated frequently, but it was online and by phone.)

It is a lengthy, convoluted tale, but Deadspin thinks it has uncovered the man behind Lennay's fake Twitter account—Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a former classmate of the woman whose photos were used without her knowledge. (He even asked her to pose for one, concocting a story about an ailing relative's wish.) And there's this:

  • "A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was '80 percent sure' that Manti Te'o was 'in on it,' and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua's death with publicity in mind. According to the friend, there were numerous photos of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te'o together on Tuiasosopo's now-deleted Instagram account."
Read the full report, by Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey, here.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o, a linebacker from Notre Dame.
Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o, a linebacker from Notre Dame.   (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)
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