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Court filing: Favre sought welfare funds to get out of personal pledge to volleyball project

Brett Favre
(© Leon Brezer – Shutterstock)

Football legend Brett Favre apparently pushed for Mississippi welfare funds to be used toward the construction of a volleyball arena at his college alma mater to get out of a multimillion-dollar pledge toward the project.

This is becoming clear from a court filing made last week in a civil suit involving more than $77 million in misspent welfare funds.

Six people were arrested as a result of a criminal investigation into the matter in 2020. Nonprofit founder Nancy New, who secured the funding for Favre’s project, and John Davis, the former Mississippi Department of Human Services director, have already pleaded guilty, and a state auditor has said the civil and criminal investigations into the matter continue.

Favre, at this point, does not face criminal charges in the case.

He is among the defendants in the civil suit.

“I will see, for the ‘umpteenth time’ if we can get him to stand down,” then-Southern Miss president Rodney Bennett wrote in a Jan. 27, 2020, text to then-Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant. “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.”

Then-Gov. Bryant responded: “Maybe he wants the state to pay off his promises. Like all of us I like Brett. He is a legend but he has to understand what a pledge means. I have tried many time[s] to explain that to him.”

This exchange, according to other text messages included in the court filing, came months after Gov. Bryant had told Favre that the use of the welfare funds could be illegal.

“Use of these funds [is] tightly controlled,” Bryant wrote in a July 28, 2019, text to Favre, according to the filing. “Any improper use could result in violation of Federal Law. Auditors are currently reviewing the use of these funds.”

On Jan. 26, 2020, after Bryant had left office, Favre sought the former governor’s help in obtaining a legislative appropriation to cover his pledge to the volleyball arena project, according to the court filing.

That day, then-USM President Bennett texted then-Gov. Bryant to say that he had “asked Brett not to do the things he’s doing to seek funding from state agencies and the legislature.”

The court filing also says Favre, in a text exchange on July 28, 2019, expanded his request for welfare funding to include a new football facility to lure Shedeur Sanders, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, to Southern Miss.

“As I suspected Deion’s son asked where the indoor facility was and I said don’t have one but are hoping to break ground in less than 2 years. Now that will not happen without your help/commitment!!! I know we have the Vball to complete first and I’m asking a lot with that and I believe 100% that if you can get this done Nancy will reach and help many and in the recruiting war it will give USM instant credibility and become relevant again,” Favre texted Bryant, according to the court filing.

Chris Graham

I write books, two on UVA basketball, one on pro wrestling, one on politics, which is getting to be like pro wrestling more and more each day. I've finished three marathons, but my maranthoning days are over. I'm also a progressive who voted for Biden, but we need another Democrat in 2024. (Sorry, Joe, and thanks.) Want to reach me? Try [email protected]