Brett Favre’s charity, Favre 4 Hope, was formed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback in 1995. According to the foundation’s website, its aim is to offer financial assistance to organisations “that provide services to needy and challenged children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.”
This claimed objective contrasts with what Favre has been accused of in his own state: having a part in the misuse of almost $8 million in welfare monies. In January of this year, the state of Mississippi filed lawsuits against 38 individuals and organisations, including Favre, in an effort to reclaim funds allegedly improperly transferred from the federal antipoverty programme Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
But the evidence linking him to this controversy has further tarnished the reputation he garnered via his 20-year NFL football career, especially in the state where he was a cherished son. Text conversations published in a court file earlier this month revealed that Favre used his standing to gain funding for two pet projects: a biotechnology startup in which he had invested and a volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter played the sport. Mississippi Today was the first to report the messages.
Bud Holmes, Favre’s attorney, did not reply to mails for comment. According to him and Favre, Favre was unaware that the payments were from a government poverty programme. John Davis, who served as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services under former governor Phil Bryant, and Nancy New, who led a community education nonprofit that misappropriated funds to Favre and other prominent figures, have pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to the welfare money.
As for Favre’s claim that he was unaware of the source of the funding, Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sport philanthropy at George Washington University, noted that it’s not unusual for people to get donations without knowing where the money is coming from. She continued, “You definitely should have been suspicious if they were able to finance everything from a volleyball stadium to a biotechnology firm.” I have no idea what kind of fund he believed this to be.”
According to court documents, Favre exerted pressure on local politicians, including Davis and New, to build the multimillion-dollar volleyball facility at Southern Miss. According to public documents, New’s organisation disguised a $5 million donation to the school for the project as a lease in order to circumvent constraints on the use of welfare money. According to their text conversations, Favre and New also devised a scheme for Favre to earn $1.1 million from the foundation, ostensibly for promotional appearances, which he would then donate to the volleyball facility. (Previously, a state auditor asked that Favre reimburse this sum; he still owes the interest.) Favre texted New in 2017 while they explored this proposal, “If you were to pay me, is there any way the media could find out where it came from and how much?”
Favre unsuccessfully pushed for more public funding for Southern Miss athletic facilities in late 2019, even after the then-governor warned him that misusing the welfare grants New had access to could be illegal, according to text messages between Favre and Bryant that were made public by Bryant’s attorney in a court filing late last week.
Favre also worked with New’s organisation to acquire $2.1 million for the biotech startup, which claims to be developing a medicine to treat concussions. According to the state’s complaint, this investment was likewise made using welfare programme monies for the “financial gain” of Favre and others.
It is now unknown if Favre will face legal repercussions for his participation in the misappropriation of these public cash. However, his association with it has brought in tremendous public attention – a kind of criticism Favre has before seen. Jenn Sterger, a game-day presenter for the Jets, accused Favre of sending her sexual and abusive texts when he was the team’s quarterback more than a decade ago.
Sage Rosenfels, a former NFL quarterback and Favre’s teammate on the Minnesota Vikings, criticised him on Twitter, stating, “Since retirement, I have been fortunate to avoid robbing millions of dollars from the poorest people in my state.” Rich Desrosiers, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s chief communications officer, said he has received perhaps a dozen phone calls from fans requesting that Brett Favre be removed from the Hall, into which he was inducted in 2016.
Desrosiers said that he has informed each caller that Favre has not yet been charged with a crime and that the existing Hall of Fame regulations do not permit the removal of a member after they have been chosen. George Preston Marshall, the demonstrably racist former owner of Washington’s National Football League team; O.J. Simpson, who was found responsible in civil court for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend; and Lawrence Taylor, who in 2011 pleaded guilty to two misdemeanour sex offences after soliciting an underage girl, have never been removed.
The $8 million earmarked for needy people that Favre is accused of diverting to his own interests, while having earned more than $140 million throughout his N.F.L. playing career, is arguably more startling than his string of 321 straight starts.
It appears cynical that he did so while directing a nonprofit whose mission included assisting impoverished Mississippians. One of the organisations named as a charity partner of Favre 4 Hope is Hope Haven, which provides services to abused and traumatised children in Mississippi. The executive director of Hope Haven, John James, said that the centre often gets a $10,000 payment from Favre’s foundation at the end of the year.
Especially for smaller groups, $10,000 may go a long way. This quantifies the magnitude of the deception to which Favre has been related, as well as how he has decided to use his status and influence in his home state.