Monday, January 21, 2013

Manti Teo = The Gay Assumption

I'm fascinated by the Manti Teo story. Let me say up front that I don't know anything about him. Everything I've heard is from the last two weeks. Still, it's a compelling story, especially in light of the mainstream media consistently exonerating him before they've heard any real details of the story. 
But that's sports. Athletes are granted, at least initially, immunity from any scandal, based on the fact that they're an athlete. Forget that virtually every athlete accused of something illicit has been proven to be guilty. Can you say Lance Armstrong? For whatever reason, we in the United States choose to vindicate athletes, even with no facts in front of us. 

It's being asserted all over the internet now...what if Manti Teo is gay? What if he made all this up, or at least exaggerated it, because he's gay, and in the world of sports, being gay is still a dangerous admission?

We don't know yet, and the gay thing could easily be another example of media gone bad, but at this point (before the Katie Couric interview this Tuesday) it's at least a valid topic.

I personally think Teo is at least partially responsible for the invisible girlfriend story. I'll even say he's likely VERY responsible and in fact, dumb enough to be one of the main manipulators of the story. I don't know any more details than anyone else. But haven't we seen this before...many, many times? 

In and of itself, Teo claiming innocence can easily be reduced to poor, less than logical choices made daily by those under the age of 30. Those who choose to believe that exchanging digital information with another user online equates to "MEETING" someone. 

Michelangelo Signorile has this take on it...

If Manti Teo is gay, I'm worried about him. If the Notre Dame linebacker at the center of the "girlfriend hoax" story indeed constructed an elaborate cover story for his gay closet, as so many gay men do in worlds that demand they be heterosexual, the emotional jolt of humiliation and embarrassment at being exposed will be overwhelming. We've seen too many young people, particularly with backgrounds like Te'o's, growing up in the conservative, anti-gay Mormon church, pushed against the wall by homophobia and going to extreme lengths in denying their homosexuality, sometimes even harming themselves.

Cyd Zielger at Outsports was among the first to raise the possibility that Teo is gay, as the question exploded on social media. Ziegler came on my radio program yesterday and explained that sports writers were calling him asking if it was a possibility, trying to figure out what would drive someone to engage in such an elaborate hoax -- if indeed T'eo was in on it. Teo and Notre Dame have said he was not involved and was the vicitim of a cruel hoax in which he was led to believe a woman he never met but had an online relationship with for years actually existed, got in a car accident, was eventually discovered to have leukemia and died. But too many strands of the story don't add up if T'eo was the victim of a hoax perpetrated by others. Even if he was not in on it, he appears to have lied at the very least, having said he had met the woman.

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