Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o wants a career in the NFL but a well-publicized dead girlfriend hoax has teams taking into consideration more than his playing abilities.
'Teams want to know whether Manti Te'o is gay,' NBC Sports pundit Mike Florio said in a radio interview today. 'They just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it's a different world.'
Florio said the question is currently 'the elephant in the room' at the NFL Scouting Combine currently taking place in Indianapolis.
'I don't think anyone knows how to solve this dilemma yet,' he said. 'It's just that they want to know what they're getting. They want to know what issues they may be dealing with down the road. We just assumed that at some point there would be an openly gay player in an NFL locker room and the team would have to work with the realities and make sure that everything's fine.'
Te'o, runner up for college football's Heisman Trophy, gained national fame as he led Notre Dame to the national championship game. The public was gripped by his personal story of playing the season under duress because of the deaths of his grandmother and his 'girlfriend.'
Te'o admits he stuck to the lie even after he said he found out the person he thought to be girlfriend Lennay Kekua had not died and did not seem to exist. They had only been in contact by telephone and online and had never met in person over a two-year courtship.
He later learned the fictional Kekua was in fact a gay man named Ronaiah Tuiasoposo who had pretended to be a woman online and on the telephone.
Te'o was asked last month by Katie Couric in a television interview if he is gay.
He replied: 'No. (Laughs) Far from from it. Faaaaar from that.'
Florio said potential teams cannot be as blunt: 'If you go Katie Couric on Manti Te'o, it's going to come out that some team, some GM some coach asked Manti Te'o if he's gay. Then you'll have to deal with all the distraction and all the stuff that flows after that.'