By Keysha Hogan
Commit this to memory: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up.
People have the capacity to forgive, ridicule and forget if given the chance. We’ve all made mistakes both big and small, so it’s easy for us to find the humanity in others when they fail on a public stage. But, when an individual has the chance to course correct and instead chooses to continue with lies and deception, the public can turn callus and unsympathetic in no time at all. For example, take our recent poster boys: Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o.
After decades of denials, Armstrong finally admitted what we all suspected. He used various methods to cheat his way to the top. During the interview with Oprah, it was easy to see how a young athlete could get pulled into an international sport with a long and tainted history. However, any mercy you felt quickly evaporated after the great and powerful Oprah started reading off the ways in which Armstrong bullied and sued his former teammates and friends.
He responded by justifying his behavior: “I was just on the attack, Oprah. Territory being threatened, team being threatened, reputation being threatened. I’m going to attack.” That’s right the awful, terrible threat that Armstrong had to defend himself against was the truth. So instead of coming clean and allowing the truth to put him into a submission hold, Armstrong launched legal warfare on his colleagues.
While Armstrong was obviously malicious in his actions, poor Manti Te’o just seemed like poor Marsha Brady explaining how George Glass was her neato new boyfriend.
When all of this started Te’o was 19 years old, and at that age entire relationships can play out over social media without anyone batting an eye. Honestly, in the early days of AOL discs how many of us were lulled into bogus feelings because some creepy guy knew how to pull at our teenage heart strings?
Te’o bravely played all season, in spite of his grief over the death of his faux-girlfriend (whose funeral he didn’t attend!). But when his soulmate placed a phone call to him from beyond the grave, he said he was angry and confused but continued forward with the relationship. Somewhere in his mind the words ‘hoax,’ or ‘scam’ must have surfaced. Once he learned the truth or at least a version of the events that made more sense, he should have stopped speaking publically about the entire situation.
No one blames a young kid for getting sucked into a scam, but they will blame him for repeating it again and again and earning sympathy as his national profile rose. And people can find forgiveness when someone gets lost in the world of cheating and drugs but turns their profits into charitable dollars. But when you enter into the business of destroying the lives of people you once worked with, or when you turn from the victim to into a perpetrator in your own hoax, expect an apathetic public to judge harshly.