The unexpected role Jay-Z played in Manti Te’o’s Catfishing Story

The Manti Te’o catfishing debacle made headlines back in 2012. The incident in which the Notre Dame soccer star was the victim of an online scam is the subject of the Netflix documentaries UNTOLD: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist. The series explores the creation of a pseudo-Facebook account by Te’o’s former teammate, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Going by the name of Lennay Kekua, Tuiasosopo used the fake account to seek a romantic relationship with Te’o.

However, the catfishing scheme was brought to light after Deadspin published a shocking article exposing Tuiasosopo as the face behind the alleged profile. Te’o has always denied any involvement in the hoax, telling ESPN at the time that the truth was far more shocking than anyone thought. “When (people) hear the facts, they’ll know,” he said in 2013. “They’ll know there’s no way I could be a part of it.”

It would be a decade before Te’o’s two-part documentary was released. In an interesting revelation, the athlete shared how rapper Jay-Z inspired him to tell his story.

Manti Te’o said Jay-Z’s words hit him like a ton of bricks

Former NFL player Manti Te’o opened up about the moment he decided to share his infamous catfishing history. During an Aug. 16 appearance on CBS Mornings, the athlete explained that he felt inspired to be more transparent after attending a Jay Z concert in 2017. “Jay-Z opens up with those words; he said, ‘You can’t heal what you don’t reveal.’ And it might have just been a few random words for everyone, but for me it hit me like a ton of bricks at the time,” Te’o said. “So I challenged myself at the time, if anyone asked about it or had any questions about it, that I would be open.”

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Te’o further explained that one reason for his participation in the documentary was to show his grandmother the respect she deserves, as her death was overshadowed by the catfishing scam. Te’o also recently admitted that he continued to seek professional help over a decade after the incident.

In August, he told For The Win that he goes to therapy regularly and has made mental health his top priority. “I’m still in therapy and talking to my therapist because, for one thing, it helps me to talk to someone and see how I can do better,” said the Hawaii native. “It also equips me with the tools to deal with uncomfortable situations or challenges in life.”

Manti Te’o later found love and got married

Years later, Manti Te’o appears to have moved on from the catfishing scandal and has since remarried. In the midst of the global pandemic in 2020, the athlete announced that he had married his longtime girlfriend Jovi Nicole after four years together. “Yesterday I got married to my best friend and the love of my life in an intimate beach ceremony,” Nicole wrote on Instagram. “Although we didn’t envision our ceremony this way, it was perfect.”

Since the Netflix documentary premiered, Te’o has also received overwhelming support online. NBA star LeBron James tweeted, “Manti Te’o… you good bro,” along with a saluting emoji. Similarly, users on social media now appear to have sympathy for the athlete. “He was treated horribly and he was the victim,” exclaimed one fan. Another suggested: “Man. Many people in the media have wronged Manti Teo. Guy was a victim. Poor boy.”

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