Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Turns Out Manti Te’o’s ‘Girlfriend’ was a Guy Impersonating A Woman; Voicemails Released
Just when you thought this Manti Te’o story couldn’t get any weirder comes this revelation.
The voice Te’o thought was his “girlfriend” — Lennay Kekua — was actually Ronaiah Tuisasasopo, a man who has taken dramatic voice lessons and was president of his high school drama club.
Te’o “thought it was a female he was talking with,” lawyer Milton Grimesacknowledged to the Daily News. “It was Ronaiah as Lennay.”
Teo has since released three voicemails that you can listen to here in which “Kekua” sounds like an emotional, dependent mess.
Teo has said he believed he was having an online relationship with a woman who was later identified as Diane O’Meara, an unsuspecting woman whose photos Tuisasasopo used to “fool” Te’o.
According to reports. phone records show that Teo and “Kekua” had 110 calls of over 60 minutes in length.
So that’s 110 calls of that length — and over 1,000 in total — Te’o had with a man impersonating a woman.
Grimes told the Daily News that Tuiasasopo, 22, wasn’t trying to hurt Te’o, but was simply attempting to have a “relationship.”
“This wasn’t a prank to make fun,” Grimes told The News. “It was establishing a communication with someone. … It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.”
Grimes wouldn’t specify what type of relationship his client wanted.
“I wouldn’t describe his issues at this time,” he said
This story comes out the same day Te’o’s interview with Katie Couric is to air this afternoon on ABC. Yet because the Couric interview was pre-taped, these latest dramatic developments won’t be addressed by Teo in the interview.
Teo did tell Jeremy Schaap that he didn’t learn Kekua — who reportedly called him Dec. 6 to say she was still alive after he had believed she died of leukemia on Sept. 12. — was fake until Tuisasasopo called him last Wednesday.
So the same voice that was portraying Kekua the whole time called him to tell him Kekua wasn’t real.
Te’o told Couric he continued to tell the media that his “girlfriend” was dead after Dec. 6 because he didn’t know how else to handle it.
“Katie, put yourself in my situation,” Te’o said in the interview that airs in full Thursday. “This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12. Now I get a phone call on Dec. 5, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going to be put on national TV two days later.”
Photo: Daily News
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.