Why would a star college football player make up a story about a relationship with an out-of-town girlfriend?

If you have a girlfriend, no one is trying to set you up. You don’t have to go on embarrassing dates and pretend to be straight. You don’t have to deal with the woman falling in love with you and end up hurting her.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o came in second in Heisman Trophy voting this year and is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick. That is, unless he has to have real girlfriends to play football.

Te’o “met” Lennay Kukua in 2011. Last fall, she had a terrible car accident and then was diagnosed with leukemia. She was a student at Stanford.

Apparently, Te’o’s relationship with her was entirely on Twitter. He made up the stories about actually meeting her. The Twitter account is gone, but Te’o claims he knew nothing about the hoax.

But stories of the relationship and how he went on to play to make her proud after she “died” were part of most Notre Dame games last fall.

And now, OutSports is asking the question: Is Manti Te’o gay?

According to reporters at Deadspin, Mormon-football-player-turned-gospel-singer Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is behind the Twitter account and the pictures posted were from an unsuspecting woman’s Facebook account.

Sports Illustrated reported the story. The TV networks reported the story. CBS This Morning ran a three-minute report including pictures stolen from the Facebook account. AP reported her funeral taking place in Carson City, Calif. That city doesn’t exist.

Deadspin did what the sports reporters didn’t. They called Stanford and found out Lennay didn’t exist. They called area hospitals and looked at police records and there was no car accident and there was no leukemia victim.

OutSports thinks things will work out. Although, they say, the hoax hurt a lot of people. … Well, no. The only one hurt is the woman whose identity was stolen.

Fans? What’s the difference if fans think his girlfriend died or not? In the end all that really matters to them is if he wins games.

People who contributed to a fund in her name for leukemia research? Really? People are mad they did some good by making a contribution?

Journalists? Well, yeah, some of them look kind of dumb right now. We’ve all been there. We’ve trusted a source we shouldn’t have trusted. We didn’t double and triple check. Good reminder. And for sports journalists, good lesson.

But it all comes back to OutSports’ question and homophobia in the NFL.

If this kid is gay and he was worried about being the first out NFL player so he made up this elaborate ruse, don’t blame him. For a lucrative NFL contract, he made up something about his personal life that really is no one else’s business. We shouldn’t be mad at his non-existent-dead-girlfriend story but mad at the system that forces a talented gay kid to lie just so he gets to play.