The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft has ended and Manti Te'0, probably the most well-known name in the draft and the most talked-about player of the 2012 college football season, was not selected. Manti's story has been covered over and over again in the past several months. He was purportedly "catfished" by his "friend" into believing that he had a girlfriend, that she loved him, and that he loved her. He then found out that this girlfriend that he never saw, but spoke to and exchanged text messages and voicemail messages with, had cancer and, subsequently died. Manti then publicly mourned his "girlfriend" at the same time that he mourned his real grandmother who really did die.
Upon the deaths of his imaginary girlfriend and his real grandmother, Manti received considerable publicity among the sports media with newspaper articles and television specials generating nationwide sympathy for the young man. If you hadn't heard of Manti based on his ability as a linebacker at Notre Dame, you probably heard about the sad story of the star college football player mourning the deaths of two loved ones simultaneously.
(Chicago Tribune) Manti Te'o at the NFL Combine
Now, as the second round of the NFL draft commences this evening, it will be interesting to see how far Manti's stock has fallen. His disappointing 40-yard dash time and other low scores on athletic ability benchmarks at the NFL combine certainly didn't help his prospects as a pro football player. But, less measurable of course is the impact on NFL scouts and general managers of Manti's seeming gullible nature as a result of the girlfriend hoax.
While the open question remains when Manti will be drafted and, consequently, how much money will he make, another, more interesting question also remains. Even though he has denied it, did Manti know that the girlfriend story was fake and a hoax or was he really an unwilling dupe? Manti has said that he was duped, but many observers, including me, find it hard to believe that he didn't know what was going on.
If he was really not a co-conspirator in his own fake love affair, Manti Te'0 has been economically damaged by the actions of his friend and the resulting drop in his draft position. Therefore, he has only one recourse: Sue.
Yes, Manti Te'o should follow American tradition that when someone has been harmed, the best response is to sue somebody. In this case, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo should be the defendant in Manti's civil laswsuit alleging such things as a) Intentional Infliction of Emotion Distress; b) Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress; c) Tortious Interference with Contract; and d) Fraud.
The evidence needed to prevail in such a lawsuit is already part of the public domain. Hell, Tuiasosopo said on the Dr. Phil television show said that he fell in love with Manti Te'o and that all his energy went into pretending to be the woman the Notre Dame linebacker came to know as Lennay Kekua. He also said that Te'o knew nothing of the scam, and doesn't believe he ever suspected Kekua was fake.
So while Manti Te'o may be disappointed today, my unsolicited advice is simple -- sue the person who harmed you. He may not have any money, but who knows. It's the American way and it can help an image that seems to have been woefully harmed by the purported hoax. See you in court.
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