So the story is the craziest, EVER, in sports history. Manti Te’o met a girl online, spoke with her on the phone every night, while she first recovered from a car accident, and then struggled with Leukemia. Te’o’s grandmother passes, only to hear hours later that Lennay Kekua, his “girlfriend,” lost in her fight to cancer as well, on the same day. Te’o went on to have the one of the greatest season of all-time at Linebacker, came in second for the Heisman Trophy and led Notre Dame to a National Championship appearance. Great story, not 100% true; which leads to an even greater story.
Let’s all be honest, nobody was hurt from this story, no one broke the law, no one died (well in real life at least). Yet sports journalists attached themselves to this story, condemned a 22 year old kid and questioned everything from his future, his integrity to his sexuality. No one would believe that this story could possibly be real, that Te’o was that naïve, that he did not do this for publicity.
Well, as more evidence has been revealed, we now know that Te’o did not have involvement in the hoax and was actually the victim in “someone’s sick joke (his own words).” Roniah Tuiasosopo admitted to creating the scam, apologizing to basically everyone he directly involved. Jeremy Schaap, probably the world’s greatest sports investigative journalist, sat down with Te’o and was convinced by his side of the story. And now Te’o has not only shown physical evidence to Schaap (text messages, Facebook messages, and tweets) but has given up his phone records to prove the thousands of hours he spent on the phone with “Kekua.”
This is not an unprecedented event; if the Catfish documentary (and now MTV show) has taught the world anything, it’s not to trust anyone on the internet. This same situation occurs every day to mass amounts a people in all walks of life. So when sports journalists basically called Te’o a dumbass, they insulted thousands of people who live with the same stress and embarrassment.
Now for those who are angry that Te’o lied and exaggerated the truth about a relationship with a female. Well, then you must have been cut off from society for I don’t know, FOREVER, because everyone has stretched the truth at some point of their life in regards to the opposite sex. He continued the lie because he did not know how to handle disappointing an entire fan base of not just Notre Dame, but football in general. At 22, no one can say they were mature enough to deal with that kind of scrutiny.
And while you are busy questioning Te’o’s integrity and trust, real life scumbags play each and every week, in every sport. There are thousands of stories the public let slide, by all athletes and celebrities, but the lies Te’o continued is where the line is crossed. This NFL season, players on several respected organizations, which many question whether he could be trusted to play beside, have been found as criminals on a regular basis, yet garner less attention combined, than Te’o, the past couple weeks.
Terrell Suggs drug his girlfriend down the street by her hair, in his car, in front of their children (this was after he dumped bleach on her in 2009); that story was not trending on Twitter. Jay Ratliff and Michael Turner both received DWI’s (that’s the more serious offense for being wasted while driving), when the NFL supplies a driving service for all its members, including players (a story we here about every year). Or when was the last time you heard the name Josh Brent; the Cowboys Defensive Lineman charged with manslaughter after driving drunk and killing his own teammate. How many Facebook posts were made about that? Dez Bryant was charged with assault after slapping/hitting his own mother, yet was praised for maturing in his third season. Michael Crabtree was just charged last Thursday for sexual assault; haven’t heard anything about the story since the 49ers made the Super Bowl.
Yet Te’o is the one that does not belong on an NFL roster. He lied about what he knew and when he knew it; by far the greatest crime in humanity. It is an absolute, if you asked any of those criminals about their situations; they may throw a couple of lies in their story too.
So in the end, I blame sports journalism for their lack of integrity in what has transpired with this entire story. They blew up the story in the first place (Peter Thamel of Sports Illustrated), without probably checking sources; Te’o didn’t go running to the presses with his personal life. And when Deadspin.com properly reported the twists in this tale, sports journalists were the first to again judge, without knowing the facts. It is time to not only get the priorities straight in this business, but start becoming accountable for the work not only in print but in social media as well. Grow up sports journalism, grow up.