The bombshell exposed Wednesday by Deadspin reporters rocked the sporting world with revelations of an elaborate hoax involving Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te'o and the tragic passing of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. As Deadspin revealed, she never existed. In the aftermath, Te'o has claimed he was the victim of a hoax, but the bizarre tale has led some to wonder if Te'o was attempting to hide a different secret--his sexuality.
On The LaVar Arrington Show, Arrington, a former NFL player, and co-host Chad Dukes referenced the possibility of Te'o being closeted as they tried to figure out what possible motivation could have led him to participate in or fall for such a hoax.
"Let's hypothesize, he's gay," said Dukes. "He is a star football, college football player, with beautiful chicks surrounding him, propositioning him all the time with all kinds of media asking him 'Are you dating chicks? Do you have a girlfriend?' all the time."
Arrington responded, "Is that the only sensible way of looking at this?"
"If he's in on it, I can't.. I don't.. maybe there is other reasons but it makes a lot of sense," answered Dukes.
CLICK HERE to listen to a portion of the radio segment.
Wall to wall speculation on @lavararrington show that this is a story about football and the closet. They're handling it well.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) January 16, 2013
In his breakdown of the many questions raised by this scandal, Clay Travis of Outkick The Coverage wrote that this hoax originating in Te'o's desire to remain in the closet "is actually the only story that makes any sense at all."
This is actually the only story that makes any sense at all. And even if it's true, Te'o will probably deny it because, unfortunately, football players aren't exactly the most welcoming of homosexuality.
Before Deadspin uncovered the fabrication, Te'o's season had been billed as an inspirational story of epic proportions. Te'o, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, led his team to a 20-3 victory over Michigan State mere hours after learning of the death of both his grandmother and girlfriend. But on Wednesday, the tale unraveled. There had been no girlfriend--she had never died, and no one with that name even existed.
As Te'o and Notre Dame issued breathless explanations, the rest of the world continued asking various questions? Is Te'o the gullible victim of an extremely elaborate ruse as he claims? Could the Heisman finalist have been complicit in the hoax as a Deadspin source suggested? Or perhaps, Te'o, a devout Mormon, had invented the girlfriend to disguise an aspect of his life he was too scared to share with his teammates and friends?
Cyd Zeigler Jr. at OutSports commented on the widespread speculation that perhaps the football player was gay.
We’ve seen rumors and heard stories about countless athletes in the past. But not since Troy Aikman have I been bombarded on email, text, Twitter and phone calls about the sexual orientation of any athlete the way I was today about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
Similarly, Slade Sohmer at HyperVocal ran down some of the Te'o's possible motivations for creating a fake, long distance sweetheart.
A devout Mormon at a Catholic school, a rugged football player — these are communities that openly reject homosexuality, some of the last remaining vestiges of the decaying closet.
Sohmer has a point. There has never been an openly gay football player in the NFL, or in the NBA or MLB for that matter.
In a January interview with the Daily Beast, Wade Davis, a former NFL player who came out after he retired, said it was just easier for him to hide his sexuality, "as long as you're denying it to yourself it's not really real."
Wade said that currently, the attitude is that you're a "gay player who can pass" then that's the better option. And if they can't hide it, they have a good chance of being "weeded out" in high school or the college level, like Te'o.
"I think the real issue is that the idea that a gay man could play sports is an attack to straight guys' masculinity," Davis said. "This gay guy can play my sport better than me? What does that say about me as a straight guy?"