Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief
Oct. 6, 2022
Twenty seasons. Three league MVP awards. Eleven Pro Bowl nods. One Super Bowl championship. One enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Legendary National Football League quarterback Brett Favre, who generated controversy for retiring and unretiring multiple times in the late 2000s, finds himself under a different type of scrutiny.
Five-million dollars. That was the amount put toward a brand-new volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, Favre’s alma mater and the former home of his daughter, Breleigh, who transferred to LSU in August to compete in beach volleyball.
According to the Hattiesburg American, the Southern Miss Volleyball Wellness Center received at least $5 million from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. That money, as well as a total of $77 million according to forensic auditors, was designated as part of Mississippi’s welfare fund.
Money designed to better the wellness of those truly in need was taken to be put toward a “wellness center” for NCAA Division I athletes.
Ironic and despicable, isn’t it?
Texts obtained by Mississippi Today last month revealed that Favre worked with former state governor Phil Bryant and Mississippi Community Education Center founder Nancy New, as well as former welfare agency director John Davis, took at least $5 million from the welfare funds for the construction of the volleyball facility.
One text showed that Bryant provided Favre with guidance on how to write a funding proposal so that the state’s department of human services would accept it. The Associated Press reported that Favre said there were plans to hold workshops and youth clinics in the facility. This came after Bryant had fired Davis from his position for suspected fraud.
Ironic and despicable, isn’t it?
New, friends with Bryant’s wife, ran the nonprofit that was tasked with spending the federal welfare dollars to better the state. Instead, she helped to build a better life for a select few. New and other nonprofit leaders were responsible for the $77 million in misspent money.
Davis was sentenced to 32 years in prison last month, per the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, while Mississippi Today reports that New pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts connected to the plan.
The crimes charged against Favre and Bryant? Nothing, yet.
According to the AP, Farve texted Bryant in July 2019 to see if welfare money could be put toward building another athletic facility on Southern Miss’ campus, this time for the football team. Bryant told Favre, “we have to follow the law.”
A text from Favre to New on Aug. 3, 2017, reads, “If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” New responded to that text telling him no and that they never have had that information publicized.
A text the next day from New reads, “Wow, just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He is on board with us! We will get this done!”
At what point is there some inkling of wrongdoing that enters the mind? This isn’t Favre’s first controversy.
In 2010, he was investigated by the league for allegedly sending inappropriate messages and photos to Jenn Sterger, the New York Jets’ gameday host, when he was a member of the team in 2008, according to CBS Sports. Though he was found to not be in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, the league fined him $50,000 for failure to cooperate with the investigation.
Athletes are supposed to serve as role models for future generations who want to be just like their favorite player. They’re supposed to emulate the work habits and competitive spirits of star athletes.
How will fans of Favre’s football career tell their children about his legacy without remembering the controversy that will follow him?
According to Insider Inc., Favre is the 22nd-highest-paid NFL player of all time, having earned $137.8 million in a career that spanned from 1991 to 2010. Sportskeeda estimates that endorsement deals with companies such as Wrangler, Hyundai and Nike have netted Favre an additional $7 million.
If he was so worried about getting volleyball and football facilities constructed, why couldn’t he put some of his own career earnings toward the project developments? Better yet, take it a step further and be a charitable man.
Well, Favre does run Favre 4 Hope, a charity providing support “for disadvantaged and disabled children and breast cancer patients.”
While it’s unclear the use of the money, ESPN obtained tax records on Sept. 28 showing that the charity donated more than $130,000 to the USM Athletic Foundation between 2018 and 2020. Charity Watch’s Laurie Styron said that groups like Favre’s are ethically obligated to spend funds in ways that were intended by donors.
Look at a man like basketball icon LeBron James, who opened the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, to help serve underprivileged youth in the city.
Parents should make sure their kids pick the right role models, people unlike Favre.