Manti Te’o deserves an apology from all of us. The current free agent NFL linebacker was on course to become a legend for the blue and gold of Notre Dame until he was schemed on by someone who catfished him to deal with their personal issues.
But the world crucified him for it, and now, his new Netflix documentary, “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist,” exposes just how much he didn’t deserve the slander. A Mormon who left Hawaii to become a gamechanger for a very Catholic University of Notre Dame in a very white South Bend, Indiana, got derailed by a person grappling with their gender and sexuality.
If you don't want to watch the two hours of this documentary on Netflix, at least watch this short clip of Manti Te'o's closing monologue. And you'll see just how wrong everyone was about him.
Still a huge fan. Nothing but respect. https://t.co/xejytzLM7j
— MJ (@MJ54) August 19, 2022
In 2012, Te’o was a senior and was recording an amazing season at Notre Dame. The school that bleeds the ethos of Rudy Ruettiger and the subsequent movie “Rudy” loved a feel-good story, and Te’o became just that. After his grandmother, Annette Santiago, died in September of that year, that same day, approximately six hours later, he heard that his “girlfriend,” Lennay Kekua, had died after a battle with leukemia.
It led to a dynamic performance on the field, and he made national news when a reporter asked about the so-called “double tragedy” of his grandmother dying and girlfriend’s death. The Fighting Irish went 12-0 on the season, finishing with the best defense in the country, allowing 10.3 points per game. The story, Te’o’s emotional reactions, and his on-field successes reinvigorated Notre Dame to compete against Alabama. However, for a national championship, all began to come to a head in a losing fashion.
With a consensus All-American nod, eight national awards, and a Heisman trophy consideration, Te’o was a victim of the most fantastic catfishing story in sports history. The worst part was that the genuine authenticity of Te’o sold a story that he didn’t even know was happening to him.
Manti Te’o Netflix doc is a great example of a person who has every right to be bitter, yet somehow finds solace/purpose in helping others. What society did to this man is not only unfair, but reprehensible. His NFL career was ruined and yet his daily mission is inspiring others!
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) August 19, 2022
Naya Tuiasosopo, formerly Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, created Lenny Kekua; try to say that three times fast. Tuiasosopo used images of an old classmate, Diane O’Meara, without her consent to make the fake persona and used social media to perpetrate the fraud. Te’o’s innate gullibility was so hard to believe that the world indicted him and felt that the scheme was hatched by the two jointly.
It was cosplay gone mad with Tuiasosopo as the wizard behind the curtain playing with Te’o’s life, and it almost affected his chances of going to the NFL, where the word “distraction” is a death sentence for a career. It was the ultimate real-life circumstance of how you only live long enough to see yourself become the villain in the media and popular opinion.
Next, speculation was that Te’o might be gay, and after going through the rumor mill and the press circuit to explain his side of the story, Te’o was looking to get into the league and away from the scandal. Unfortunately, it did affect him as he slid from the first round to the second round of the 2013 NFL draft and millions of dollars.
Man, I hope Manti Te'o gets his redemption story. His documentary is so damn good. It should really be titled, "Manti Te'o is a better human being than everyone else and deserves 300 million apologies and a big hug."
— Casey Moore (@Casey_Moore) August 19, 2022
According to Te’o, at the NFL Combine, every scout asked him about the catfishing incident, not his abilities. Today, after playing for three teams from 2013-2021, the now-married-with-children football player cried and explained how the world abused him, and yet he still had faith and struggled to keep his resolve as a player in the NFL.
After being the butt of an everlasting joke, Manti Te’o finally told the whole story, and it shows how cruel the world of fast food media and public perception can be.