Matt Leinart and Billy Hart, a former USC quarterback and third baseman drafted by the Houston Astros earlier this year, mug for the camera at Marquee on Saturday night. (Submitted photo)
Earlier today, many sports websites -- including Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, Ben Maller and several team-specific blogs -- received the same email. It contained two photos of Matt Leinart and a young woman and the following second-hand story:
So [Sunday] morning, my friend calls me and says “Do you know some guy named Matt Line Hart?” I laugh and say yeah and don’t bother to correct her. She says, well he was at Marquee last night, and hit on one of the girls from texas all night, danced with her, and then was so drunk he groped her … she turned around and slapped him, and left.
But that alleged incident never happened.
"She didn't slap me," said Leinart in an exclusive interview. "And I didn't grope her."
We find ourselves in the unique position of being able to corroborate Leinart's statement, as we were with him and his friends all night. So was Sports Illustrated writer Arash Markazi.
"I saw her," said Markazi. "He didn't do anything wrong. And there was no slapping."
Markazi said it would have been impossible for the incident described to occur without everyone knowing something happened. "If Matt Leinart got slapped, there would have been a scene. There would have been a big commotion."
Markazi said that it was actually Leinart who was under assault all night. "Once everyone found out he was there, they all swarmed."
But Leinart was there to enjoy the evening with his friends, not looking to meet girls. "One tried coming on to him," said Markazi, "and he just kind of turned his back on her."
Still, Leinart made an effort to be courteous to those who approached him. "He was just trying to mind his own business and be nice to people," said Markazi. "He was very cordial, shook their hand and took a picture if they asked for one. He didn't 'big time' anyone."
Leinart said that's what happened with the woman in the photos, who wanted a picture with him. "I was just trying to be nice."
Those photos, which were attached to the email sent out to those websites by the third party, hardly confirm the groping claims.
"I just laugh at this," said Leinart, no stranger to the perils of celebrity. "I mean, come on, I have a girlfriend I love."
As for all the commotion that the photos caused? Leinart's not fazed. "If someone's trying to get five minutes of attention, it's just funny to me."
"I have more important things to think about," he said, referencing his preparation for the Rose Bowl.