In the Promontory Sports Summit, writers collaborate to answer questions on a subject – And one.
With the depth of the Deadspin article, does the burden of proof now sit with Te’o to prove that he wasn’t involved?
Dan Lewis: I think so. Luckily for him, he has the support of Notre Dame, who have some weight in areas around the country. Who doesn’t want to help the school that gave us Rudy? Once more information regarding this subject comes out, Te’o will be able to prove his innocence or admit his guilt. But, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
Braeden Jensen: I don’t even know if there is a way that Te’o can prove that he was absolutely not involved or didn’t have any knowledge of this supposed “hoax.” He can say it all he wants, and Notre Dame will apparently come to his defense, but someone will eventually find the evidence if, in fact, he was aware and participating in this. The article went into enough detail and was researched seemingly well enough that Te’o now has to have solid proof that he wasn’t involved in order to convince the masses.
Spencer Durrant: To me, with the tangled mess this story has turned into, there’s so much mud being thrown both ways that Teo needs to clear it all up. Some of the things he’s said, as well as his father and friends, point to him being involved in this hoax. Why he’d do it is another story entirely, but with a lot of information being laid bare Teo needs to definitively say something one way or the other.
John English: There’s more explaining that needs to happen from Te’o's side. We’ve seen the quotes from his father, references he’s made himself about how they met face-to-face. It’s difficult to believe he didn’t know it was a hoax before December 26. It’s still possible he was embarrassed about his online relationship and embellished, but some of the quotes go beyond that.
Clint Peterson: Deadspin did their due diligence; something the 21 major media outlets failed to do. That’s their thing, though, what they do. They live to bust the balls of the big boys, and they kicked ‘em square in the soft spot. Developments keep on coming, but Te’o stuck his foot into his throat so far on national television so many times that he’s the only one left holding the shoe horn at this point.
Does this hurt his draft status or professional career?
DL: I don’t think it hurts his professional career. Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State was suspended for his involvement in memorabilia for tattoos, and he was highly coveted in the NFL supplement draft. If Te’o was duped, he’s just a Mormon young adult with little to none social skills or social awareness. If that’s a crime, I’m not raising my family in Utah. If Te’o was participating the whole time, then that’s a little weird. I do think that it hurts his draft status – look at Vontaze Burfict. College star, has personal problems, goes undrafted – oh, and helps lead his team into the playoffs.
BJ: I didn’t think it would. The dude can still play football, and he showed by playing well enough to place second in Heisman voting. That being said, a tweet this morning from @nfldraftscout where he quoted an NFL exec. saying “We’ll draft criminals, but lie to my face and you’re off our board.” If more teams think that Te’o can’t be trusted, we may see him slip a little down draft boards, but I think he still goes quickly to a team who needs him.
SD: I don’t think it has any impact on his draft status at all. The NFL is full of its problem people (Dez Bryant, Michael Vick, etc.) but those guys are exceptionally good at what they do and still put fans in the seats. Manti Teo will sell tickets, and unless this episode turns into a recurring problem, this shouldn’t harm his professional career either.
JE: This hurts his draft status. It’s hard to say how it will affect his professional career unless this whole episode is a sign of mental problems he may have.
CP: Te’o has actually moved up on Mel Kiper’s board since the incident, from eighth to sixth. There will be plenty of questions, mental evaluations, and so on, but the bottom line is, the NFL is a haven for criminals with football talents, and lying about a girlfriend isn’t a crime, last I checked anyway. As Dan noted in our recent piece about Te’o, there’s loads of “bad guys” in the league already. Bottom line is, if a dude is makin’ ‘em bucks, he’s good to go.
Who is the biggest “victim” in all of these unfathomable layers?
DL: The biggest victim is Notre Dame, if Te’o was promoting the hoax. This hurts their image, because they enabled him and promoted him. They have a reputation to uphold, and this would smudge the golden dome.
BJ: College football fans. I remember talking to my wife late in the season, in awe about all that Te’o had seemingly gone through and overcome in his senior season while leading the Irish back to glory and becoming a Heisman frontrunner. Now I just feel like Te’o and his buddies were ROFL’ing the entire season, absolutely incredulous that the media and the entire nation was eating this story up.
SD: Manti Teo. Regardless of his role, victim or perpetrator, his name is going to be the one stuck with this whole soap opera until it blows over. And every time one of those incredibly addicting fake girlfriend jokes pop up on Twitter, we’ll all think back on this and laugh.
JE: In order: Anyone who’s had a relative die of leukemia. Friends and family who believed him. Sports journalists. Notre Dame. Mormons. Guys with real girlfriends in Canada.
CP: Major media got victimized pretty badly, but it’s hard to feel too bad for them. As 1280Sports’ Patrick Kinahan will tell you, “Journalists don’t report the truth, they report what people tell them.”
One thing that’s keeps bothering me is the way Te’o has painted himself the entire time this has played out. Really, the only consistency in the whole thing is Manti continually calling himself the victim, be it “poor me, look what I’m doing despite this,” or “I was the victim of a cruel hoax.” He’s giving his family, friends, teammates, religion, school, and college football a bad name.
Does Te’o have any credibility anymore, can we believe anything else that comes out of his mouth on the topic?
DL: Te’o's credibility hinges on his ability to provide evidence that proves his innocence. As of right now, he’s just some dude that couldn’t get his girlfriend of the last three years to Skype with him – so basically he is at the level of many bloggers (stereotype joke!).
BJ: As mentioned above, he’s going to have to come up with some solid proof to convince the public. We already feel like we’ve been duped, so we’re going to be skeptical of anything he says, but if he can show that he was not involved then his integrity may not take as big of a hit. It doesn’t help that sports fans have recently been given the run around by steroid-pumping baseball players and cyclists, not to mention several other rampant college football controversies of the last decade. The American sports fan is becoming jaded, and will have a hard time believing anything sooner or later.
SD: Nope, not unless he proves his guilt or innocence. It should make for some great ESPN content though.
JE: Not without proof. He’ll have to earn back trust of the public.
CP: Not even his own defender, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick could not, or would not, answer the discrepancies in Te’o's story. I expect as more is revealed about suspected cohort Ronaiah Tuiasosopo details will become more clear. Although I also expect a high stakes case of pin the tail on the donkey to ensue between the pair as well, maybe even in a federal indictment if the money trail for donations taken in not good faith from various states leads to such a places. There’s also the recent development of potential exploitation of a minor used in the swindle, maybe repeatedly.
Assuming Te’o and Derek Fisher both lied, which one are you more upset with for doing so, and why?
DL: Te’o. Fisher may have just really disliked playing in Utah, which I can understand. Manti was using this story to gain sympathy in an attempt to win an award. Fisher knew that the Lakers could be good, but winning a NBA Finals ring is still a team effort.
BJ: Neither. Probably Fisher though, because that was closer to home. We don’t know if either of them “lied.” If Fisher didn’t want to be here anymore, then it probably did more good to let him go. I have a hunch that fans wouldn’t mind if Raja Bell was released from his contract, Fisher style.
SD: Fisher, by far. Te’o managed to get the whole nation to love a Mormon and almost win a Heisman, but Fisher took advantage of Larry Miller and bolted to the hated Lakers for reasons best known to himself (and every Jazz fan who saw his hugely positive impact on the 2007 team). My inner Jazz fan takes precedence over my love for college football, therefore that makes Fisher the bigger bad guy.
JE: As a father of a daughter with serious medical ailments, Fisher. Or I was at the time. Doesn’t really matter. And Te’o will get that way too. Te’o's lie was just so bizarre; it took a couple reads just to comprehend it. Most everyone gives Fisher the benefit of the doubt, and it showed true class by Larry H. Miller for not burying Fisher in public for using his daughter to get out of his contract so he could rejoin the Lakers. Assuming Fisher lied, of course.
CP: Whose question is this and why isn’t Gary Anderson an option?! Fine. Torrey Ellis. Sheesh.
Is BYU glad that they aren’t front page news because of this?
DL: YES. The last thing we need is to distract from the coaching changes (will he, will he not) and the basketball team’s struggles to accomplish the simple task of rebounding. Now we can focus on the important stories – like whether or not Riley Nelson is an NFL quarterback or not.
BJ: Absolutely. Do you remember the national coverage when Brandon Davies was kicked off the basketball team during the stretch run of Jimmer’s senior year? Many media outlets expressed admiration for BYU’s enforcement of the honor code at the expense of wasting the most promising season of BYU basketball, but many media outlets pushed and pursued Davies and his family, friends, and acquaintances to unreasonable levels trying to get to the bottom of why he was dismissed. BYU didn’t want that publicity then, and you can bet they’re glad they don’t have to deal with this right now.
SD: BYU would graciously welcome the free publicity and also find a way to throw in some honor code references in their press release on the matter. It is BYU after all; they’d have to do a press conference to address this if it happened in Provo.
JE: There is much rejoicing in the land.
CP: Moar exposurez!
In all seriousness, the act of lying about an imaginary friend in itself is small beans compared to the Davies controversy level of sinning. But I don’t believe BYU would relish the chance to be in this spotlight if it even would have happened under their watch in the first place. Of course, they also wouldn’t have been in the national championship game spotlight either, nor would they have sat on their thumbs over the information as Notre Dame did.
How can Jabari Parker possibly top this?
DL: Jabari could transfer to Blinn College after an investigation reveals that he and his family were paid by Duke during the recruitment process. At Blinn, he gets more tattoos than Chris Andersen and fathers more children than Travis Henry and Antonio Cromartie. After one year at Blinn, he transfers to the University of Southern California, wins the NCAA Championship, Player of the Year, all while throwing ravish parties in his school-provided house. After he is drafted by the Kings, he takes a chainsaw to DeMarcus Cousins face before poisoning Whitney Fredette at a fireside. Would that do it?
BJ: Only one thing Jabari could do would make the nation’s jaw drop like the Te’o situation: After one year at Duke, with the #1 pick in the NBA draft all but secured, Parker calls a press conference to announce that he’ll be spending the next two years in South Africa as a missionary for the LDS church. It’d be a shock, but I don’t even know if that would generate the frenzy that fake/dead/online girlfriends seem to incite.
SD: If Parker comes out with a fake boyfriend, there will be a much bigger firestorm over that than some fake girlfriend. However, that seems incredibly unlikely. But, he’s already chosen to forgo serving an LDS mission, so to some that is probably a bigger deal than a fake girlfriend.
JE: Te’o was Catfished. Parker could be Gremlinsed.
CP: After being drafted by the Bobcats he gambles away Michael Jordan’s fortune, then goes on to lead the Chicago White Sox to the World Series eventually becoming the successful spokesman for the “Pete Rose to the Hall Foundation,” then is stripped of his World Series MVP award for not wearing shoes to his Cooperstown induction.