By Ben Dickison, Guest Writer
Three-time NFL Most Valuable Player Brett Favre has found himself in hot water this week, after texts revealing his participation in a welfare scandal were made public.
The 52-year-old former gunslinger allegedly collaborated with former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) Director Nancy New to funnel welfare money into funding for a new volleyball facility on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). New and her son Zachary, who assisted in running the education center, have both pleaded guilty to misspending welfare money.
Favre is third all-time in passing yards for USM, his hometown university, and his daughter Breleigh played volleyball for the Golden Eagles in 2017 and 2018 before switching to sand volleyball for the 2019-2022 seasons. In 2017, Favre began seeking funds to build a new facility for his daughter and her volleyball team. This came in the form of the $6 million USM Wellness Facility; construction began in the summer of 2018.
In addition to the brand-new indoor facility, Southern Miss also laid down three sand volleyball courts immediately south of the construction site and added women’s beach volleyball as its 17th varsity women’s sport. The University cited the partnership with the education center and “about two dozen other donors” as the funding for the facility.
However, the former Vikings, Packers, Falcons and Jets quarterback is thought to have received a total of $1.1 million from the MCEC in exchange for “speaking at events, keynote speaking, radio and promotional events and business partner development,” according to Nancy New’s attorney in a July 11 court filing. The payments allegedly came at the order of Bryant, who the State of Mississippi claims complied with the redirection of welfare money to Favre for the project.
While Bryant is yet to face criminal charges and has denied any wrongdoing, the State of Mississipi, on behalf of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, filed a civil suit against Favre in May. Alongside Favre were three pro wrestlers and a variety of other defendants who were alleged to have misused over $20 million in welfare funds meant to provide assistance to lower-income Mississippi residents through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. As part of this lawsuit, some of Favre’s text messages with New were made public.
In a text to New from Aug. 3, 2017, according to court documents, Favre wrote, “If you were to pay me is there anyway the media could find out where it came from and how much?” New responded, “No, we never have had that information publicized. I understand you being uneasy about that though…” Just a day later, New reached out to Favre, writing, “Wow, just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He is on board with us! We will get this done!”
Favre acknowledged the message texting, “Awesome I needed to hear that for sure.” On Dec. 17, 2017 when Favre texted New, “Nancy Santa came today and dropped some money off (two smiling emojis) thank you my goodness thank you.” New replied, “Yes he did. He felt you had been pretty good this year!”
The 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and three-time Super Bowl champion has paid back $500,000 already, equivalent to the one of the installments that made up the $1.1 million sum. Favre insists he did not know the money came from welfare funds.
Mississippi State Auditor Shad White has stated that the NFL record-holder for most consecutive games started still owes the state $228,000 in interest. As for Bryant and New, the future is uncertain. New and her son, who are set to be sentenced on Nov. 19, also admitted to funneling welfare money to Prevacus, a Florida-based drug development company attempting to create a remedy for concussions. Favre openly has ties to the company.