Brett Favre's Allegations and Fraud
Most people know Brett Favre as the Hall of Fame NFL quarterback who dominated the late 1990s, claiming a Super Bowl victory and earning three MVP awards during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers. Recently, Favre has found himself in the largest public corruption scandal in Mississippi history. How did he get here?
On May 4, 2020, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White and his office produced a report claiming roughly $94 million granted to the Mississippi Department of Human Services was 'questionable,' a term labeling the money as either misspent or spent unlawfully. The Mississippi DHS received a $98 million grant over three years (2017-2020) from the federal program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The program aims to provide relief for families in need of financial support. Two main organizations received money from the DHS: the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and the Family Resource Center for North Mississippi (FRC). The $94 million in 'questionable' money was at the discretion of these two nonprofits, who could spend the funds however they liked, but ultimately towards the goal of the TANF program.
In the months following, five officials were arrested for crimes ranging from bribery to conspiracy to racketeering. Notable arrests included former director of the DHS, John Davis, and MCEC founder Nancy New. Both pleaded guilty and are currently awaiting their sentences.
In October of 2021, an outside Maryland audit validated the 'questionable' money, and they found that $77 million of TANF money was misspent. The Mississippi State Auditor's Office and White denote that the MCEC and FRC "misspent or improperly dispersed portions of that $77 million." Subsequently, any vendor that received money from these nonprofits also misspent or improperly dispersed the funds.
How is Favre involved in all of this?
The history of Favre and the MCEC began in 2017 when the MCEC received its first installment of TANF money. Favre sought to build a new volleyball complex at his alma mater and his daughter's alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi. Favre inquired about funding for the project to the DHS through Davis, and eventually, a meeting between Favre, Davis, and New took place the same year. $5 million out of the total $7 million for the project was provided by the MCEC, and construction on the facility began a year later. As well as the $5 million, Favre was paid roughly $1.1 million for the promotion of the volleyball complex, which included radio spots and advertisements. However, there is scarce documentation of any public encouragement on Favre's behalf advocating for the project.
Favre also invested in a pharmaceutical company called Prevacus, which specializes in concussion research and medical treatment for sports-related injuries, and sat on its advisory board. In 2019, from emails obtained by Davis, Favre requested a meeting at New's office to discuss an educational program involving brain injuries caused by concussions. The same year, the MCEC allegedly gave $2.15 million to the company for rights on clinical drug trials that would take place in Mississippi and rights to manufacturing Prevacus' drugs, also in Mississippi. New and her son Zach, assistant executive director of the MCEC, were formally indicted not long after on the basis that the $2.15 million was from TANF grants and subsequently would have been illegal to use for personal business investment. The indictment also alleges Nancy and Zach would individually profit from the agreement, not the MCEC itself. Founder of Prevacus, Dr. Jake Vanlandingham, admitted he signed a deal with the nonprofit but later said he had no knowledge the funds allocated to the company would be from federal TANF grants.
Over 17 months, Favre repaid the $1.1 million he was initially endowed by the MCEC for the volleyball complex promotions, which ultimately never occurred. White, however, claims Favre still owes $228,000 in interest to the state. Favre is one of eleven people and businesses who have been issued monetary demands from the Mississippi State Auditor's Office, which is trying to recuperate the misspent $77 million that was supposed to go towards some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people of the state.
As the sprawling investigation continues and multiple people are accused of wrongdoing, Favre launched a defamation lawsuit on February 9, 2023, against two former NFL players turned media hosts and Mississippi State Auditor White. The suit alleges Pat McAfee, host of "The Pat McAfee Show," and Shannon Sharpe, co-host of a Fox Sports talk show, have used their influence on television and radio to promote false accusations that Favre purposefully used money that was meant for Mississippi families in financial strife. White, according to the suit, has ruined Favre's "good name" and alleged Favre knew about the welfare money and its intended purpose.
McAfee has been reported to treat the lawsuit as a joke and spoke comedically about the legal event, directing toward Favre by saying, "I'll see ya in court, pal." He stresses he is "excited to be a part of it" and claims it is a victory for his talk show, saying it has joined "the big leagues now." The Office of State Auditor reacted by saying everything White said has been "true and is backed by years of audit work" and that it is "mind-boggling" that Favre is bringing up this legal offense. The statement then concludes by advising Favre it would cost less to repay the full welfare amounts he owes than to pay attorneys for this case.
The case has caused turmoil for Mississippi ever since its birth. Although forms of civil justice have been brought to some of the perpetrators of the scandal, there are still knots to unravel in this widespread, sprawling account of public corruption and misappropriation. Favre has been embroiled in the center of it and has received criticism from people, not just inside the sports media. He still defends his original standpoint regarding innocence and denies any wrongdoing or illegal conduct. "I've done nothing wrong," he said. "I have been unjustly smeared by the media…and it is past time to set the record straight."