Notre Dame released the following statement surrounding the story of Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend hoax. The news is traveling like wildfire on the internet and could be like the ESPN Sarah Phillips story times 1,000. ND stated:
On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.
Capitalizing on tragedy for inspiration and publicity is not new at Notre Dame. George Gipp and "win one for the Gipper" were quite different in real life than it was portrayed by Hollywood. Today, Deadspin took another giant step forward in their journalistic reputation. They laid out the facts:
Manti Te'o did lose his grandmother this past fall. Annette Santiago died on Sept. 11, 2012, at the age of 72, according to Social Security Administration records in Nexis. But there is no SSA record there of the death of Lennay Marie Kekua, that day or any other. Her passing, recounted so many times in the national media, produces no obituary or funeral announcement in Nexis, and no mention in the Stanford student newspaper.
Nor is there any report of a severe auto accident involving a Lennay Kekua. Background checks turn up nothing. The Stanford registrar's office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled. There is no record of her birth in the news. Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there's no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed.
Numerous outlets picked up the story, and Twitter has exploded on the topic. And according to Deadspin
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.
The sheer quantity of falsehoods about Manti's relationship with Lennay makes that friend, and another relative of Ronaiah's, believe Te'o had to know the truth. Mostly, though, the friend simply couldn't believe that Te'o would be stupid enough—or Ronaiah Tuiasosopo clever enough—to sustain the relationship for nearly a year.
So the reputation of Te'o is destroyed today. No pro team looks favorably on someone who stages an elaborate ruse. According to this tweet from
@darrenrovell NFL player marketing agent: Te'o will lose $350K to $500K in pre-draft marketing deals. "His brand just took a dive."
How will affect Te'o's NFL Draft stock? Here's what The Sports Bank thinks:
Prior to Deadspin’s mind-blowing story on Wednesday, one of ESPN’s draft experts, Mel Kiper Jr. published his first NFL Mock Draft. Kiper doesn’t always know what he’s talking about, but he’s usually pretty close.
Kiper had the Notre Dame linebacker with “elite athleticism” and “elite intangibles” going 8th overall to the Buffalo Bills in the upcoming draft.
If the report is indeed true, you can’t help but think his value will drop a significant amount come spring-time.
Not only do NFL teams shy away from character issues early in the draft, Te’o will take quite the public relations hit if this is confirmed. And in the end, the NFL is a business and must market their players, especially those taken highly in the draft.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.