Manti Te'o Speaks Out After Netflix’s Untold Explored The Story Behind His Catfishing Scandal

You didn’t even have to be a sports fan back in 2013 to know who Manti Te’o was. Notre Dame’s star linebacker started making headlines first for his inspirational story — dedicating his senior season to girlfriend Lennay Kekua, who had supposedly died of cancer on the same day his grandmother passed — and then when it was revealed he’d been hoaxed as the victim of catfishing, and Kekua was not a real person. Te’o’s shocking story was explored on the latest installment of Netflix's documentary film series Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, and the response to the doc prompted the former NFL player to speak out.

Manti Te’o took to Instagram to thank everyone who reached out to him following the release of the two-part Untold documentary, which gave people new perspectives regarding his decade-old scandal through interviews with Te’o, his family and even the catfisher herself. Here's how Te'o responded to all the renewed attention: 

I just wanted to come on here real quick just to give a heartfelt thank you to everybody that has come through and has shown so much love to me and my family, for your messages, for your comments. I’m trying to go through all of them, and it’s been so amazing to me to hear the battles that we’re all facing, the challenges that we’re facing in our lives at this time, and how the documentary has given some of us hope, the extra push just to keep going.

After Deadspin broke the news in 2013 that the Lennay Kekua story was a hoax, Manti Te’o unfortunately became a laughingstock to many people who didn’t understand how a person could be tricked in such a highly public way. On top of that, he was reviled by others who thought he was privy to the scandal in an attempt to draw attention to himself and his football career. Today, we’re all familiar with catfishing, but back in 2012 it was still making its way to the mainstream after the term was first created within Nev Schulman’s 2010 documentary Catfish

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist (available to Netflix subscribers) showed how Ronaiah Tuiasosopo pulled off the scam that led to Manti Te’o becoming a national punchline, and even being named one of America’s Most Disliked Athletes. His roller coaster of a story resonated with a lot of people, though, which is what Te’o said he hoped would come out of putting himself in the spotlight once more for this documentary. He continued:

If there’s anything that I wanted from this thing was just that, was to give some of us hope who needed it. To tell those who wanted, who needed some love that they’re loved, and to help them to forgive — to forgive others and most importantly to forgive themselves. It’s just been so humbling, just the amount of love that has been shown the past few days. I just wanted to come over here and say thank you. Continue to show that love, not only for the people you come in contact with, but most importantly for yourself. And we’ll make this world a better place one person at a time. But I just wanted again to come and say thank you.

It seems like Manti Te’o was able to get some more closure by participating in the documentary and hearing others’ stories. Although I guess it can't be called closure if it's an ongoing thing, thanks to the project's sustained popularity. 

New episodes of Netflix’s Untold documentary film series are released each Tuesday. Be sure to check out some of the best True Crime documentaries on Netflix right now, as well as the 2022 Netflix TV Schedule to see what’s coming up soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.