Leis show support for Te’o
Kristen Durbin | Wednesday, September 19, 2012
After losing his grandmother and girlfriend within hours of each other last week, Irish linebacker Manti Te’o could have left Notre Dame and his teammates to be with his family in Hawaii.
Instead, he stayed in South Bend and led his team to a decisive victory at Michigan State on Saturday.
This Saturday, under the Notre Dame Stadium lights, tens of thousands of Fighting Irish fans will return the favor and display their support for Te’o during his time of loss by donning leis at the football team’s night game against Michigan.
The “Wear a Lei for Manti” campaign was conceived at a Monday night meeting of the Leprechaun Legion when the student spirit group discussed the possibility of giving out leis to students at the pep rally before the Michigan game, senior and Legion football leader Rosemary Kelly said.
“The idea was suggested at the Legion meeting in recognition of Manti’s allegiance to Notre Dame, his sacrifice to stay an extra year and his decision to play in the Michigan State game under personally difficult circumstances,” she said. “As students, we want to do our part and let him know that we value his contributions and support him as a man of Notre Dame, on and off the field.”
Coincidentally, a similar idea was posted by someone unrelated to the Legion on the social media pages of The New ND Nation (TNNDN), a Notre Dame fan group committed to positive attitudes toward the school, within hours of the Legion’s meeting, Kelly said.
Lynne Gilbert, a TNNDN volunteer who manages the group’s Twitter account, said the group helped publicize the idea via Twitter and Facebook on Monday. By Tuesday morning, a local South Bend radio station contacted Gilbert to discuss the lei campaign.
“[The idea for the campaign] just blew up on Monday after we asked our Twitter followers what they thought of it,” she said. “We started a Facebook event page, ‘Wear a Lei for Manti,’ that now has 4,000 members, so it’s just been growing and growing.”
The social media-driven publicity helped the Legion find a way to distribute leis to students without violating NCAA compliance rules about paying for promotional items in Te’o’s name, Kelly said.
“We had to figure out how to pull it off without spending any money,” Kelly said. “Fortunately, a flurry of social media in the last few days has garnered support for the movement, and less than 24 hours after the idea surfaced, we had a donation for the pep rally, and we now have an opportunity to make the idea a reality.”
Kelly said United Beverage Company of South Bend volunteered to donate 7,500 leis to the Legion to be distributed at Friday’s pep rally.
At least 25,000 leis will be distributed Saturday from various sources, Gilbert said. Budweiser and WSBT have partnered to donate 10,000 leis for students on gameday, Brothers Bar and Grill will contribute 1,000 leis to the campaign and TNNDN purchased 500 leis with out-of-pocket money and donations received through its website.
Gilbert said TNNDN’s goal in supporting the lei campaign was rooted in the group’s love for Notre Dame.
“We really just want to give back to Manti and the whole team. Look what he’s done through adversity … just going out there and playing with his heart and putting it all on the field,” she said. “It’s a different atmosphere and the team is so unified, so anything we can do to give back to them, we want to do.”
As a member of Notre Dame’s student community, Kelly said the movement holds even greater meaning.
“Hopefully students will take a moment to think about what the lei means as they put it on. It is a sign of affection for Manti and a symbol of our support for him,” she said. “It is a nod toward what we, as a community, hold to be important in our representative student-athletes, and after this week, I think each student on campus will have a new awareness of just how tight-knit the Notre Dame community is and will realize that community does not end at campus boundaries.”
For more information, visit TNNDN’s website, www.thenewndnation.com, and the Facebook pages of TNNDN and the Leprechaun Legion.