Notre Dame | Sports

Gay Rumor Mill Ramping Up Over Manti Te'o 'Dead Girlfriend' Hoax


Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o won the nation's heart when the "girlfriend" he claimed to have met online died of leukemia. But it was revealed yesterday that said girlfriend never existed and it was all, Te'o claimed, an embarrassing hoax and he fell for it. But then inconsistencies began to appear in his story.

For example, there's the fact that claimed to have met the young woman, "Lennay Kekua," in person in 2009. Even Te'o's father said they had met. "Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there," he said.

But Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said last night Te'o never met her. Swarbrick said it seemed a "group of people" perpetuated this hoax for cruel kicks, and that Te'o was not involved.

But an investigation by the site Deadspin leads to one person in particular, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a former football player who is now a gospel musician who has at the very least met Te'o.

From Deadspin's report:

Te'o and Tuiasosopo definitely know each other. In May 2012, Te'o was retweeting Tuiasosopo, who had mentioned going to Hawaii. Wrote Te'o, "sole"—"bro," in Samoan—"u gotta come down." In June, Te'o wished Tuiasosopo a happy birthday. How they know each other isn't clear.

We spoke to a woman we'll call Frieda, who had suggested on Twitter back in December that there was something fishy about Lennay Kekua. She was Facebook friends with Titus Tuiasosopo, so we asked her if she knew anything about Ronaiah.

"Manti and Ronaiah are family," she said, "or at least family friends." She told us that the Tuiasosopos had been on-field guests (of Te'o or someone else, she didn't know) for the Nov. 24 Notre Dame-USC game in Los Angeles. USC was unable to confirm this, but a tweet from Tuiasosopo's since-deleted account suggests he and Te'o did see each other on that West Coast trip. "Great night with my bro @MTeo_5! #Heisman #574L," Ronaiah tweeted on Nov. 23, the night before the game.

A source also said that Ronaiah may have tried the same trick on someone else before Te'o; Te'o just fell for it. That may be the case, but it's not hard to at least pause at rumors that this was all a big cover up for Te'o being gay.

"...Not since Troy Aikman have I been bombarded on email, text, Twitter and phone calls about the sexual orientation of any athlete the way I was today about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o," writes Cyd Zeigler Jr at OutSports.

If the gay rumors turn out to be true, then perhaps the nation would see how far some people, particularly religious people and athletes, are willing to go because they still fear an unloving world. Opposing Views described such a hypothetical scenario as "the saddest way imaginable" to cover up one's sexuality.

If the gay rumors are not true, and this was just a huge, huge misunderstanding, then maybe this becomes a conversation not about the closet but about the ratio of sports versus academic funding at big schools like Notre Dame.

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  1. If he comes out...he will be the most famous football player for years!!!

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Jan 17, 2013 5:20:38 PM

  2. This is a very strange story-a guy who looks like that and is a football player is going to have plenty of REAL life girls throwing their panties his way...

    Posted by: jaragon | Jan 17, 2013 5:25:30 PM

  3. Football players are not even close to every gay man's wet dream. Give me a soccer body or a rugby body any day. Most of the [american] footballers bodies, i find just kind of gross or really boring.

    Posted by: antb | Jan 17, 2013 5:52:58 PM

  4. I'm so slow, I heard this, this morning and didn't even think gay, but it makes sense. How could a guy have a long relationship with someone he never met? Why would he lie about meeting her? A sick joke you never webcammed? He must be in on it and made up this whole "Trick" thing.

    Posted by: Marty | Jan 17, 2013 6:02:11 PM

  5. I have a girlfriend too. She lives in Canada.

    Posted by: kodiak | Jan 17, 2013 6:22:09 PM

  6. The truth will come out. The imaginary girlfriend was a lesbian.

    Posted by: Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada | Jan 17, 2013 6:27:07 PM

  7. I'd believe that he was angling for Heisman sympathy if the "relationship" hadn't started back in 2009 and the father hadn't "met" her a couple years ago. Seriously--the only reason you have a fake girlfriend that long is to appear macho and avoid pressure to screw around or to cover for being gay. In either case, he's pretty weak for not being able to stand up for his true self (whether devoutly Mormon or homosexual...or both).

    Posted by: Stefan | Jan 17, 2013 6:32:14 PM

  8. I hope he doesn't let the stress off this controversy overwhelm him and cause him to harm himself.This story was covered on every daytime talked show,most gossip sites,entertaiment shows,radio sports shows...I read this may effect history draft standing.If he comes out I wonder what round he would be drafted.People are comparing him to Lance Armstrong for being a liar.Personally I m worried about this guy.

    Posted by: Kim | Jan 17, 2013 6:33:51 PM

  9. I don't buy the "gay" thing. Obviously he created this fabrication to draw attention when he was up to Heisman. I'm still in the closet to my family, and whenever they asked me about any girl that I dated, I usually gave them very vague details about her. Because I'm always afraid if I say too much about that "imagine girl", someday I'm gonna trip on my own words. This guy did the opposite, even the story of his girlfriend's leukemia got on national TV. I don't think that's a typical behavior of a "closeted case".

    Posted by: jeremyrain | Jan 17, 2013 6:56:21 PM

  10. Good fortune Te'o. Live your life according to your own lights. Don't let the PC haters get you down.

    Posted by: andrew | Jan 17, 2013 7:00:02 PM

  11. WFC?

    Posted by: David Hearne | Jan 17, 2013 7:27:35 PM

  12. @Kim: I was happy to read your good hearted post. They are so rare on this site. Too often the posts on Towleroad are mean spirited, bitchy, jealous, negative and lacking in joy and hope. They are often a replay of that old movie "Boys In The Band".

    Posted by: andrew | Jan 17, 2013 7:41:48 PM

  13. Lordy......I've never ever heard or saw of this guy before today. I had the volume down on my tv this morning when his face popped up on the CBS Morning Show. Ding ding gaydar went off.

    Nuff Said

    Posted by: HereinDC | Jan 17, 2013 8:01:54 PM

  14. Sorry. Watched the clip. My gaydar went off so strong that I shot backwards into the wall, banged my head, which scared the cat - who knocked over a lamp.

    Posted by: Geoff | Jan 17, 2013 8:57:34 PM

  15. Ah, the ol' Jan Brady routine. "That's funny. I've never heard of a George Glass at our school."

    Posted by: Alex | Jan 17, 2013 9:30:18 PM

  16. Trying to understand this article is making my head hurt.

    Posted by: Bravo | Jan 17, 2013 9:39:29 PM

  17. How can you say your "girlfriend" died when you never even met her?

    Guuuuuuurl!Someone ruby slippers have just been found!

    Posted by: FunMe | Jan 17, 2013 10:41:30 PM

  18. Gigi's video link REALLY merits your attention if you have EVER met a gay man lying from the closet before. Unmistakably and oh so sadly gay, poor dope. Then again, trying to lift the tonnage of Catholicism, Mormonism and the dissonance of personally being expert in a sport that revels in its overwhelming majority of successful homophobes, amongst both players and their fans, well, that's some crushing baggage to carry. Really check out Gigi's link here:

    Posted by: Thomas Cardellino | Jan 17, 2013 10:54:25 PM

  19. Besides being Mormon, going to a Catholic University, and being on the football team, no one has mentioned being of Samoan background, which I'm guessing is just as homophobic a culture as all those others. It is amazing to finally see the YouTube interview where he oh so sincerely discusses his imaginary girlfriend, how she put the Heavenly Father first, how she wrote him all those letters, etc. Rather fascinating whatever the truth is.

    Posted by: emjayay | Jan 17, 2013 10:59:31 PM

  20. You know, the more I think about this hoax, the more of a tragic figure this young guy becomes to me. I was only ten years old when the only grandparent I ever knew, my Dad’s mother, died. 49 years later, I can still remember that day and the loss I felt on a daily basis for months afterward until her memory would come back to me just as fully but, as is the way of the world, less frequently. For this young guy to have lied and aligned the lie of a false death with the real death of his Mormon Samoan grandmother is a very big "tell" about his sense of self-value and what he considered "worthy" of himself. As an Italian/Irish Roman Catholic by birth and upbringing, I know how disastrous an ethnic episode the loss of a Matriarch can be. Not to say that "Downton Abbey" folks don't grieve their losses deeply, but Episcopalians (let's say, for example) have always seemed to me far more stoic in the face of death than many other ethnicities who might be more emotionally free to express in public their losses. Guess I'm treading on some toes unintentionally, but it’s because I just feel compelled to wrap my brain around what might forever be a conundrum. One thing is for sure, though. It is a very sad statement about what this young guy thought necessary to reach even a false level of comfort that at least part of his soul just had to know would come under a very harsh light of criticism some day. After all, he was intellectually gifted enough to be playing for Notre Dame, just not emotionally mature enough to handle the pressure like an adult.

    Posted by: Thomas Cardellino | Jan 18, 2013 12:04:57 AM

  21. How about all the mental health rumors? This story doesn't make much sense at all. I could see a weak attempt at some sympathetic PR, but a gay cover story this obvious would be bizarre. What we need is some honesty from the participants, though, frankly, it not all that interesting.

    Posted by: anon | Jan 18, 2013 12:06:33 AM

  22. Well, it only took me five times, but I think I finally got the gist of what Andrew Belonsky was summarizing. Whew!

    Anyway, does any of this matter? Sounds like a LOT of wishful thinking about Manti Te'o.

    By the way, Samoan men are very sweet and good-hearted. Should any of you ever be so lucky to have a Samoan boyfriend, cherish him.

    Posted by: MJ | Jan 18, 2013 12:12:12 AM

  23. Yeah, this story screams gay to me. When I was in high school, I had an older boyfriend who lived about 60 miles away. This was in the days before twitter, but I told everyone that I ad a girlfriend. I used alot of the personal details about my boyfriend to make the lie easier to keep straight. Sounds like just what Te'o did. Ronaiah was in a car accident, so Kekua was in one, etc. Sounds like they decided to kill the fake girlfriend off because the lie was getting just too complicated. So she conveniently died on the same day as his grandmother, when he would already be grieving and wouldn't have to fake being sad about the fake girlfriend.

    The notion that Te'o was the victim of an elaborate hoax does not ring true at all. He supposedly dated her for three years and told numerous media outlets that he met her after a football game at Stanford, not online.

    So three years in an online relationship and not one video chat? Not one meeting? That does not ring true at all.

    Posted by: shawnthesheep | Jan 18, 2013 1:47:11 AM

  24. If we learned anything from Mitt Romney, it's that Mormons revere lying.

    Posted by: Mark | Jan 18, 2013 2:11:31 AM

  25. You know you're a sex addict when you always want Samoa. Anyway -- Magic 8 Ball says G.A.Y. Such aggressive measures to mislead the public at large are an abusive psychological game, and deserve a dose of harsh reality in return, unless you are a professional actor actually playing an actual fictional character who is not gay. This strapping hunk of Lu'au should share a reality show and a fragrance with Jodie Foster tout de suite, n'est-ce pas?

    Posted by: J.D. | Jan 18, 2013 2:37:57 AM

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