February 22, 2013
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After the dust settled on Notre Dame’s embarrassing performance in the National Championship, an incredibly bizarre and frankly embarrassing story broke from South Bend. Manti Te’o’s “girlfriend,” who allegedly died of leukemia during the same week that his grandmother passed away, never truly existed and was merely an online hoax. In the following weeks, Te’o claims to have been the victim of said hoax and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick gave a tearful speech supporting Te’o.
Along with a significant portion of the country, I have an incredibly hard time believing this tall tale. Te’o has been quoted as saying his girlfriend, Leenay Kekua, was “the most beautiful girl he ever met.” Since then, we have found out that Te’o had never actually met this woman and that their relationship was “only online.” This is after his parents were quoted as saying the two had met at a 2009 Notre Dame-Stanford game in Palo Alto. This is also after Te’o claimed that Kekua’s family gave him extensive support after her “death.”
The holes in Te’o’s story and his admittance of these lies leaves us with two options. Te’o was either in on this hoax from the start, or after realizing it was all a hoax, he blew the story out of proportion in order to make a more convincing case for the Heisman trophy. Sure, I have issues believing that the middle linebacker at Notre Dame would have to resort to getting an online girlfriend, but the deluge of contradictory quotes and stories from the Te’o family leaves us with the conclusion that Manti Te’o is one thing and one thing only: a liar.
Unfortunately, Te’o’s show of dishonesty is just another chapter to add to the recent laundry list of sports stars openly lying and deceiving the public. While in previous columns I defended incredibly talented players like Barry Bonds, I can do no such thing for the recent events concerning Manti Te’o. Te’o’s deceit was simply in order to make an encapsulating story for his Heisman campaign and it was purely fueled by selfish motivation. Not to mention, Barry Bonds had game, and Te’o has proved through this hoax and his laughable performance against Alabama that he lacks game on and off the field.
Every collegiate and professional athlete has been told that they are a role model to kids across the nation, so it is absolutely shocking to me that we see so many athletes lying about who they are and what they’ve done in order to give themselves an edge or keep themselves out of trouble. It’s time that athletes not only start acting responsibly, but tell the truth when they have had a lapse in judgement. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my childhood lies, it’s that you always end up at the truth eventually, so coming clean sooner rather later is immensely preferable. If athletes continue to openly lie about their lives to the media, soon everything they say or do will need to be put into question.
As Te’o prepares for the 2013 NFL Draft, he’s been getting a polar reaction from the country. One side has poured their heart out to someone who they see as deceived while the other condemns his role in a deceitful hoax. I for one, am disgusted by Te’o’s selfish mindset and his disregard for his fans, teammates and school in his pursuit of a mere trophy. If by chance he is drafted by the Buffalo Bills, I will still be rooting for my team every Sunday, but I will show absolutely no support for #5 due to the unnerving lack of character he has displayed. The last thing that any NFL team would need is a locker room distraction and a dishonest teammate.
If more information regarding the hoax surfaces, I may reconsider my position on this issue, although as of now, with the information we have, I can conclude that Te’o has been nothing but dishonest with the public about his life. But I can say one thing: Te’o is incredibly lucky his girlfriend didn’t exist, otherwise he may have had to suffer the ever so suave Brent Musburger ogle her on National Television.