South Bend- Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has become a victim of an online dating hoax.
On Sept. 12, 2012 three days before the Fighting Irish defeated Michigan State during the regular season, Te’o received a phone call and was informed that his grandmother at the age of 72 had passed away. Six hours later Te’o received yet another phone call. Only this time it was telling him that his online girlfriend, Lennay Kauka, passed away after losing her battle with leukemia. Te’o used his grandmothers and Kaukas passing as motivation throughout the season.
During an interview in October with ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski, Te’o confessed that Kauka and himself talked on the phone every night for four months until they fell asleep, but had never met in person. Speculation circled questioning if the mystery woman even existed, until ESPN reported that Arizona Cardinals full back Reagan Mauia claimed to have met Kakua while doing charity work in America Samoa in 2011.
After months of grieving the loss of “the most beautiful person he has ever met,” Te’o received a call he never would have expected. On Dec. 26, 2012 while attending the ESPN awards in Orlando,Fl., Te’o spoke to the person who claimed to be Kauka declaring that she was not dead. The questions and suspicion of her existence went viral after deadspin.com confirmed that there was no record of Kauka’s death, or birth.
Te’o claims that he is a victim of a hoax, stating that “This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her…”
Te’o is sticking to his story that he had no idea that Kauka did not exist. In today’s society, when one chooses to have an intimate relationship online with someone else who turns out to be someone completely different than what they claimed to be, is called being “Catfished.” Te’o said on Jan. 16 2013 “to realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”
Te’o is a future prospect for the NFL draft and is continuing to practice and prepare for what lies ahead of him. The story is continuing to unravel but not in Te’os favor. It seems as though Te’o may or may not be behind the entire scandal. If he is, it could jeopardize his chances of being drafted in the Spring. If not, then Te’o was truly a victim of a catfishing hoax and hopefully has better luck next time. Like they always say, there are plenty of fish in the sea.