The State of Mississippi is suing former NFL quarterback and Hall of Famer Brett Favre and others, alleging they misspent millions of dollars that had been allocated for welfare.
Newly-revealed text messages from 2017 indicate that former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who left office in 2020, was aware of the arrangement, and that the money that was intended to help low-income families. After being funneled through a nonprofit, it eventually went to Favre to help build a volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, the lawsuit alleges.
Favre, who had a storied 20-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and others, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
HE’S A FRAUD, TOO: Brett Favre welfare scandal shows us all one thing about former QB
MORE: Former Gov. Phil Bryant helped Brett Favre secure welfare funding for USM volleyball stadium, texts reveal
‘MONSTROUS’: Author Jeff Pearlman advises fans to not read his biography of Brett Favre after release of text messages
Here’s everything we know about the case:
The lawsuit, brought in May on behalf of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, alleges that the defendants “squandered” more than $20 million from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families anti-poverty program.
Text messages newly entered Monday in the lawsuit show that then-governor Phil Bryant was involved in the scheme and even guided Favre on how to write a funding proposal so that it could be accepted by the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
Rather than the money go to the program, the suit alleges it was funneled through a nonprofit group, the Mississippi Community Education Center, to Favre and eventually spent on a new volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi. Both Favre and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant attended the school. Favre’s daughter started playing on the volleyball team there in 2017.
Text messages that were filed in court documents Monday by a lawyer for the Mississippi Community Education Center show messages between Favre and the center’s executive director, Nancy New. Dated August 3, 2017, the text messages include references to former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Favre seems to acknowledge some impropriety.
FAVRE: If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?
NEW: No, we never have had that information publicized. I understand you being uneasy about that though. Let’s see what happens on Monday with the conversation with some of the folks at Southern. Maybe it will click with them. Hopefully.
Brett Favre: Will the media find out that we’re using welfare funds intended to help the poorest residents of America’s poorest state to build a volleyball center?
Nancy New: Nah. Oh yeah, the governor is fully on board!@ayewolfe five years later: https://t.co/rWXHRXISsu pic.twitter.com/wo3QuIYXaY
In a message the following day, New confirms to Favre that she had just finished a phone call with Bryant, who was “on board” with the arrangement.
Nancy New and her son, Zachary New, who helped run the nonprofit the Mississippi Community Education Center, pleaded guilty in April to charges of misspending welfare money. They await sentencing and have agreed to testify against others.
Favre has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
In October 2021, after he repaid part of the money owed, Favre said in a Facebook post that he “would never knowingly take funds meant to help our neighbors in need.”
Favre added that he “would never accept money for no-show appearances” and that he was “doing all that I can to support this investigation to make things right for the people of Mississippi.”
Jeff Pearlman wrote a 2016 biography on Favre called “Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre” and urged his Twitter followers to not buy or read the book.
“Looking at it now, if I’m being brutally honest — I’d advise people not to read it,” Pearlman wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “He’s a bad guy. He doesn’t deserve the icon treatment. He doesn’t deserve acclaim. Image rehabilitation. Warm stories of grid glory. His treatment of @jennifersterger was … inexcusable.
“And now—taking money that was designated to help poor people in HIS STATE, and funneling it to build (checks notes) A (expletive) VOLLEYBALL ARENA (!?!?!?) is so grotesque, so monstrous. I don’t know how someone like that looks in the mirror. I just don’t. So, sincerely, don’t buy the book, don’t take it out from the library. Leave it. There are sooooo many better people worthy of your reading hours. Of your time. I prefer crumbs like Brett Favre shuffle off into the abyss, shamed by greed and selfishness.”
In May 2020, the Mississippi state auditor said the Mississippi Community Education Center paid Favre Enterprises $500,000 in December 2017 and $600,000 in June 2018 for multiple speaking engagements. The auditor’s report said that “upon a cursory review of those dates, auditors were able to determine that the individual contracted did not speak nor was he present for those events.”
Favre initially denied the claim in the days after the audit, but then repaid $600,000 in October 2021. At the time, the state auditor said the state attorney general could sue Favre if he didn’t pay interest owed on the amount.
Then, in November 2021, Favre missed a deadline to pay $228,000 in interest, prompting the state auditor to turn the matter over to the state attorney general’s office.
Favre, 52, played in the NFL 20 seasons from 1991-2010, for the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. A three-time MVP, three-time all-pro, 11-time Pro Bowler, Favre was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
He threw for 71,838 yards and 508 touchdowns, both of which stood briefly as all-time NFL records, though which now place him fourth on the current all-time list.
Contributing: Associated Press