Misappropriating funds for your Favre-orite University

Being a Hall of Fame quarterback has its perks. Fame, recognition, connections, and persuasive social power. Unfortunately, that power is not without flaw. Recently released text messages confirmed that former Mississippi governor Phil Bryant helped Brett Favre in diverting “at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds” to construct a new volleyball arena for the University of Southern Mississippi.

There is an ongoing suit in Mississippi concerning welfare fraud. An estimated $70 million in funds from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families anti-poverty program was diverted for multiple other uses. Overlooking the fraudulent actions taken, the glaring moral and ethical issue here is that welfare funds were taken from the poorest state in the country. Mississippi has an average annual income of just $65,156 and shows a poverty rate of 19.58%.[1,2] Favre would know this, being born there and attending the University of Southern Mississippi for his college years.

Although Favre accounts for only a fraction of that sum, he is rightly the most publicized piece. On September 2nd it was reported that in 2017 and 2018 the state used $1.1 million of welfare funds to compensate Favre for a series of motivational speeches. Favre never gave those speeches, and he did return the money, but not the $228,000 in interest. [3]

In a new development just last week, text messages were released that confirmed Bryant’s involvement in one of Favre’s welfare diversions and the single largest known purchase in the scandal: a $5 million volleyball stadium for the University of Southern Mississippi.[4] To this point, Bryant has denied any involvement in steering welfare funds to the stadium. According to the texts, Bryant counseled Favre on how to write a proposal for the stadium, and around the time of the texts he also had recently fired the state welfare agency director on suspicion of fraud.[5]

Favre has not been charged with a crime yet, and somehow neither has Bryant. As it turns out, Favre actually planned on using the $1.1 million in speech compensation to further fund the volleyball stadium. As this case develops, it seems more than plausible that Bryant and possibly Favre receive charges. An interesting factor leaning in the opposite direction is that the state is not pursuing the volleyball matter in the ongoing civil suit yet. Current governor Tate Reeves also fired the state’s attorney when he subpoenaed documents relating to the stadium. It appears that Mississippi is determined to have that stadium built.

Due to Favre’s involvement, this scandal has been reported across the media, being reported from local sources like Mississippi Today, up to big names like the New York Post, and reaching sports media in Pro Football Talk. However, its seen very little news coverage and some are questioning why it’s being swept under the rug.

Another issue that may or may not be related to Favre’s shotty behavior is his history of head injuries. Favre himself estimated that he probably suffered over 1,000 concussions during his playing time[6]. That averages out to around 50 concussions per year of his 20-year career. The definition of concussion has changed from the time that Favre was drafted, and he stated that he felt ringing or saw stars every time his head hit the turf. 20 years ago, that wouldn’t be seen as a concussion. Today, that is much different. There were also somehow no concussion protocols in place during Favre’s career. The first NFL concussion protocol came six years after his retirement.[7] Whether these head issues contribute to Favre’s poor decision making remains to be seen. Either way, poor decisions being made in a national spotlight do not fare well for him, the former governor, or the University.

[1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_poverty_rate#:~:text=Poverty%20rates%20were%20highest%20in,%2C%20and%20Minnesota%20(9.33%25).

[2]

https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/poorest-states

[3]

https://www.al.com/news/2022/09/fbi-questioned-brett-favre-in-mississippi-welfare-fraud-case.html

[4]

[5]

https://nypost.com/2022/09/13/brett-favre-allegedly-got-phil-bryants-help-in-welfare-fraud-case/

[6]

cbssports.com/nfl/news/brett-favre-gives-frightening-answer-when-asked-how-many-concussions-he-suffered-during-his-nfl-career/#:~:text=Although%20Favre%20once%20believed%20he,the%20time%2C”%20Favre%20said.

[7] Id.

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3L at University at Buffalo School of Law; BSELS Social Media Coordinator

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