FLORENCE, Ky. - Commercializing the Manti Te’o saga has come to the Tri-State.
The Florence Freedom baseball team announced late Thursday plans to giveaway Manti Te’o girlfriend 'bobbleheads' to the first 1,000 fans for the May 23 game against the Schaumburg Boomers, but don’t expect anything to be in the box.
“This will be the best kind of bobblehead a fan could get,” General Manager Josh Anderson said in a statement. “Because now fans can make the bobblehead out to be whatever they want it to be.”
Plans include a kiss cam for fans to kiss their imaginary friends; an imaginary friend food fight for children and an air guitar contest, to boot. The team plans to rope off section 115 for fans partaking in the festivities.
Is the giveaway appropriate? Anderson told ESPN: “I don't know who we'd be offending. It would just be isolated to the guy who made his season based off this story."
Not long before Notre Dame played Michigan State last fall, word spread that Fighting Irish linebacker Te'o had lost his grandmother and girlfriend within hours of each other.
Te'o never missed a practice and made a season-high 12 tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery in a 20-3 victory against the Spartans. His inspired play became a stirring story line for the Fighting Irish as they made a run to the national championship game behind their humble, charismatic star.
Te'o's grandmother did indeed die. His girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed.
In a shocking announcement Wednesday night, Notre Dame said Te'o was duped into an online relationship with a woman whose "death" from leukemia was faked by perpetrators of an elaborate hoax. The goal of the scam wasn't clear, though Notre Dame said it used an investigative firm to dig into the details after Te'o disclosed them three weeks ago.
The hoax was disclosed hours after Deadspin.com posted a lengthy story, saying it could find no record that Kekua ever existed. The story suggests a friend of Te'o may have carried out the hoax and that the football player may have been in on it - a stunning claim against a widely admired All-American who led the most famed program in college football back to the championship game for the first time since 1988.
"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," Te'o said in a statement. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her."
However, he stopped short of saying he had ever met her in person or correcting reports that said he had, though he did on numerous occasions talk about how special the relationship was to him.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
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