The saga of Manti Te'o is the most compelling sports story of the new year. The Super Bowl is an unmatched global spectacle. For a group looking to draw attention to its cause, either one offers intriguing possibilities. Leave it to PETA to combine them both.
Doing what it does best, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is attempting to capitalize on both the fleeting Manti Te'o moment and the big game by erecting a billboard featuring the now-former Notre Dame star linebacker and the tagline, "Sometimes faking it is better," with instructions to "score faux-chicken Super Bowl recipes" at the organization's website:
Manti Te'o may have been buffaloed by a fake girlfriend, but sometimes "fake" is actually better. That's why PETA created this billboard urging football fans to avoid unnecessary roughness to chickens on Super Bowl Sunday by intentionally grounding real chicken wings and opting for play-action fake fowl instead.
Those animals in PETA's "Glass Walls" video? Unlike Manti's make-believe girlfriend, their deaths are real. Birds slaughtered for their wings and other body parts are often dropped into tanks of scalding-hot water while they are still conscious and aren't covered by even the meager protections of the Humane Slaughter Act.
Te'o, 2nd in Heisman voting. (US Presswire)
To recap, in case you've spent the last two weeks living among herds of Ussurian moose on the Eastern Mongolian steppe: Te'o is the former Heisman Trophy finalist who made international headlines as the subject of a Jan. 16 exposé by the website Deadspin, which uncovered a bizarre, long-running hoax involving a fictional persona, "Lennay Kekua," who had been successfully sold to major media outlets as Te'o's very real, recently deceased girlfriend. Te'o subsequently confirmed the story and has admitted to lying about the "relationship" in December, even after learning he'd been duped.
Still, Te'o describes himself as a victim of the hoax, having only spoken to the girl he knew as "Lennay" over the phone and the Internet. He also maintains that, at the time, he sincerely believed the story he told reporters last year about her alleged death as a result of leukemia.
PETA media officer Wendy Wegner said the organization has submitted the design to companies in New Orleans and hopes to have "at least one" billboard up in time for the Super Bowl crowds descending on the city for Sunday's game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. (The billboard is still awaiting approval.) One potential hangup is the use of Te'o's likeness and/or the Notre Dame logo without consent.
"PETA's counsel has reviewed the use of Te'o's image and the Notre Dame logo in this context, and PETA thinks that the use is appropriate," Wegner said.
Unless of course they have no intention of putting up an actual billboard, and this is just a thinly veiled attempt to get a bunch of gullible sports blogs to spread the message for them. In which case … well, mission accomplished. Congratulations, PETA, on successfully exploiting the natural instincts of our species.