What if Manti Te'o had said "Yes, I am gay?" Part I

Let me say first, that this post is not about whether he should have said that, nor about whether that's even the actual truth. Rather, it's about reassuring his young fans that, if it was true, and if that had been his answer, he would have found love and support in each and every one of the communities with which he identifies.

Here's the background, in case somehow you've missed this story. Katie Couric hosted Notre Dame star football player Manti Te’o on her show Katie last week, for what was the future NFL linebacker’s first interview since the strange story about his non-existent girlfriend broke. Because the story has led to speculation that Te’o might be gay, naturally Couric asked him if he was.

He responded “No, far from it. Far from it,” (with special emphasis on the word “far.”)

Setting aside the way he said it, there are two reasons he would have given this answer.

The first, simplest, and most obvious reason is that it’s true.  Couric could ask the exact same question to every single college athlete in the country, and probably at least 90% of them could answer, truthfully, the exact same way.

The second and far more complicated reason would be if it’s not true, but that’s what he felt he had to say.

It’s not my business to speculate as to which of these reasons applied to Te’o in his interview, nor do I have any interest in doing so.

This is not actually about Te’o himself. It’s about his classmates, his fans, and any other young people who might identify with him, and who might have been disheartened by his answer because they don't believe him. There are many young people out there, right now, who still believe that Te’o is gay, and that he felt he couldn’t come out because he’s an athlete, or specifically because he’s a football player, or because he goes to Notre Dame, or because that’s a Catholic community, or because he’s Mormon, or because he’s from Hawaii, or even because he’s an Eagle Scout.

I’ve been watching the media – and sports media in particular – for decades. And I know that this question, once raised, almost never goes away, no matter what the truth is.

What matters to me at this point is that there are thousands and thousands of gay young people out there who have seen this clip of this interview, who need to hear that if it had been a different person in that chair with Katie Couric, one for whom the answer would have been “yes,” that person would be able to find love and support in each and every one of his communities.

Part II digs a little deeper in to each of them.