Mississippians should insist Favre face justice

Published 12:47 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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Nothing hurts worse than finding out someone we look up to isn’t the person we thought they were. The pain is real when our heroes disappoint us. And sometimes when that happens, we want to ignore it and look the other way.

We can no longer look away from Brett Favre.

Favre, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, was the pride of Kiln, Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi — or at least he was until he embroiled the university in a case involving the theft of millions of dollars of money meant to feed and clothe and provide healthcare for the poorest children and families in the poorest state in our nation.

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Poverty in Mississippi is worse than poverty anywhere else in our nation, and it’s something that should make us all ashamed. That only makes what Favre is accused of doing so much worse.

In short, Favre told USM officials he and his wife, Deanna, were going to fund the building of a new volleyball arena at USM. Money was going to come from the couple’s personal funds and from donations.

Southern Mississippi officials had no clue Favre was going to turn to his friend then-Gov. Phil Bryant, who apparently led the way for Favre to be awarded millions of dollars from a program that provides temporary assistance for low-income families with children known as TANF.

How do we know all of this? We know from Favre’s own words in an abundance of text messages uncovered, thanks to the excellent investigative journalism of the not-for-profit Mississippi Today. That news site’s series of stories on the welfare scandal in Mississippi, written by its reporter Anna Wolfe and known as The Backchannel, is fascinating.

Those text messages show Farve was abundantly aware of where the funds he was lobbying for were coming from. He queried as to whether the press could find out. He became so relentless in finding a way to complete the project without spending his personal money, Bryant in a text message reached out to USM President Bill Bennett for help. Here was Bennett’s response, according to the latest story on the issue from Mississippi Today.

“I’ve asked Brett not to do the things he’s doing to seek funding from state agencies and the legislature for the volleyball facility,” Bennett texted Bryant in late January 2020, according to the filing. “As you know, IHL has a process of how we request and get approval for projects and what he’s doing is outside those guidelines. I will see, for the ‘umpteenth time’ if we can get him to stand down. The bottom line is he personally guaranteed the project, and on his word and handshake we proceeded. It’s time for him to pay up – it really is just that simple.”

And if that’s not enough, the State of Mississippi is suing Favre to recoup a $1.1 million payment made from a non-profit funded by TANF funds for a speech he never made and $2 million in welfare payments to pharmaceutical start-up project of Favre’s.

Favre brought lots of recognition to Mississippi during his football career, and we were all proud as we could be of him.

However, Brett Favre is not better than any one of us and he deserves to face the same consequences any person would for similar actions.

Favre should be indicted for his crimes, and no politician or law enforcement or judicial official should shield him from the day in court he so deserves.

Editor’s note: You can read the latest Mississippi Today story here: https://mississippitoday.org/2022/09/24/phil-bryant-brett-favre-welfare-volleyball/?fbclid=IwAR3wE7eGWCHuDLEOdXWqD5NQyiejPwoFDb8wMo5ImV6DhOR5Nk145Kjc54