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Guest Post by Dennis Statham
At first glance, Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Favre is an unlikely villain for the sports media. He played in the NFL for 20 seasons, has the record for 321 consecutive starts, and is a three-time MVP. Even if you don’t watch football, you likely remember him from Wrangler jean commercials (no drag queens in sight).
You never see those commercials anymore or his Copper Fit ones. Favre has lost his endorsements because of lies from the press. They accuse him of stealing welfare funds. The Huffington Post called Brett a “welfare queen,” and wrote, “This wealthy football player stole welfare money to build a volleyball center for his kid.” Deadspin said Favre “stole from poor Black people in Mississippi.”
So what’s the truth? Is the former Green Bay Packers star a fraudster that stole money from black people? No, of course not. A careful look at the facts of the case show that Brett Favre truly did nothing wrong.
The $5 million
The $5 million grant to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is at the heart of most attacks on Brett Favre. The claim is that Brett “stole welfare money” to build a volleyball stadium at USM while his daughter played volleyball there.
Brett indeed helped secure $5 million in funding for a volleyball facility at USM, but it was a deal that was supported by state officials at every stage. The state attorney general’s office, the governor, the university, and the Mississippi Department of Human Services all approved of the $5 million in funding.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services devised the funding plan. The agreement was drafted by lawyers at USM. The Governor was aware of the source of the funding and supported it. The state attorney general’s office approved the funding.
The money, however, turned out to be funded by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) aka welfare funds. This is a big deal. Money for needy families is not supposed to go towards building volleyball stadiums. But, how is this Brett Favre’s fault? Why is Brett supposed to know something was amiss with the funding that the state not only approved, but cheered on?
“Following final approval, Southern Miss publicly announced the plans for the State-owned Wellness Center and lauded [Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC)] support for the project. Not one public Mississippi official or lawyer expressed any objection to or concern about the funding and plan,” Favre’s attorneys note in one filing.
MCEC was run by a woman named Nancy New, who has since pleaded guilty to misusing state funds. New worked with John Davis, head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, to run a slush fund at MCEC that improperly doled out tens of millions of welfare dollars.
New is not some random fraudster. She’s close friends with former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and his wife. New hosted a Christmas Party at their mansion more than a year after the $5 million in funding for a volleyball arena was approved. Favre was introduced to New by USM’s athletic director Jon Gilbert and Phil Bryant encouraged Favre to talk with her.
So Favre is a “welfare queen” because one public state entity transferred funds to another state entity in a deal that was vetted and approved by state officials. It’s nonsense.
If you haven’t put it together yet, the reason Brett is a target is that is a white conservative man. Brett defended Derek Chauvin, spoke in support of Tucker Carlson, and is a Trump backer. The attacks on Favre often deal with race. Favre seems to function almost as a get-out-of-jail free card for black athletes and coaches that are in trouble.
After Davante Adams pushed a photographer to the ground, former NFL player and current ESPN commentator Robert Griffin III tweeted:
Davante Adams pushing someone down and Draymond punching his teammate were wrong. But lets focus our attention on Brett Favre and the evil of stealing millions from the poorest people in our country in Mississippi.
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) October 12, 2022
Another former NFL player Charles James II tweeted:
They reporting more on Davante Adams pushing over the camera man than Brett Favre stealing from the poor but I guess I’m tripping
— Charles James II (@CJDeuce_) October 11, 2022
When Kyrie Irving was in the center of controversy for posting a link to “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” a bizarre documentary that claims that Jews aren’t actually Jews, black commentators again tried to use Brett Favre as a distraction. Liberal activist and self-proclaimed “bishop” Talbert Swan, wrote, “While the public excoriation of Kyrie Irving continues, Brett Favre has yet to face any consequences for stealing $5 million from poor children in Mississippi in a welfare fraud case. #IStandWithKyrie.” Black podcast host Tim Black remarked, “Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving catches more heat for tweeting an amazon link than Brett Favre does for his part in a $70M scheme to defraud the Welfare Fund of the poorest state in America.”
Finally, when Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka was in the midst of a sex scandal, Yahoo Sports columnist Shalise Manza Young tweeted, “i know the Ime stuff is juicy, but Brett Favre knowingly stole $5+ million from the neediest people in the poorest state in the country.”
And Wajahit Ali, somehow the Daily Beast’s dumbest columnist, wrote, “There’s been about 10 times more coverage on the Ime Udoko scandal than there has been on Brett Favre stealing millions of dollars meant for poor people in Mississippi for his daughter’s volleyball team. This fool should be in jail but nothing will happen to him.”
These attacks are all just as vicious as they are false.
Brett somehow is guilty of “knowingly stealing $5 million” when the state grants $5 million to another state institution in a transaction approved by the state?
The ironic thing is that this transaction was modeled after a similar grant done at Alcorn State University, an HBCU in Mississippi. Money from MCEC went to Alcorn State University. Is that HBCU racist for getting a grant from MCEC? That’s the standard applied to Brett.
In fact, internal emails show that USM based the funding agreement for the volleyball arena on the state’s project at Alcorn State that occurred a year prior. No one has ever sued anyone or claimed that MDHS’s funding of the construction of Alcorn State’s building was illegal or improper.
It doesn’t fit the narrative.
Fighting back and the gag order
Unfortunately, once a narrative is set it’s very hard to counter. One recourse is the courts. Brett has begun to fight back and filed a defamation suit this year against Pat McAfee for calling him a thief. That suit was resolved this past week with McAfee admitting he had no clue what he was talking about when he claimed Brett “stole from poor people in Mississippi.”
However, the lies against Brett Favre continue and now he has less recourse. The judge in the case recently placed a gag order on the whole thing, so the press can lie about Brett and he can’t respond.
Editor’s note: [Revolver News reached out to Favre for an interview on the bogus attacks on him, but he’s unable to talk].
There is another element to the Favre story and that’s the state politics. As has already been established, Brett worked with the state but now is being accused of stealing from the state.
One of the biggest anti-Favre antagonizers is Mississippi State Auditor Shad White. White is the former campaign manager for Phil Bryant – that’s the guy who encouraged Favre to work with fraudster Nancy New but now calls himself a “whistleblower” In the case. White is close to Bryant and approvingly shared a cartoon showing Bryant as his wingman in the probe.
Brett has filed a defamation suit against White for repeatedly claiming Brett knowingly stole taxpayer funds.
It’s all for political gain and to divert attention away from his buddy Phil Bryant. White himself has admitted that recipients of funds from MCEC had no duty to know that the non-profit was misusing state funds.
“Well I’ll give you an example of why it’s very difficult sometimes for recipients to know the rules around the money. One of the expenditures that we saw when we examined how TANF money had been spent, was an expenditure buying an ad in the Clarion Ledger. So, if you asked yourself, well is it the Clarion Ledger’s job to know that TANF money could not be spent on an ad in the Clarion Ledger? The answer is no, obviously,” White said in a 2022 interview. “The Clarion Ledger doesn’t have folks who are TANF experts… So, really there are some situations where the end user can very easily argue, ‘No I’m not supposed to know the rules you’re the one who’s supposed to know the rules.'”
So if a newspaper is not supposed to know that the money they received was in fact federal welfare funds, why is a retired NFL player supposed to know? For some reason, the state, which mishandled tens of millions of dollars, gets a pass in the public eye while Brett Favre, the former football player, was supposed to be the one person who knew that MCEC was misappropriating money.
Brett Favre is a scapegoat. The press and politicians will continue to lie about him just like they do about police shootings, Donald Trump, and anyone in the way of their agenda.
Dennis Statham is the pen name of a political consultant familiar with the Mississippi swamp and die hard Packers fan.