Opinion: The accusations against Brett Favre are not just another NFL scandal

File photo by Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press / Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre speaks to the media in Jackson, Miss., Oct. 17, 2018. The governor of Mississippi in 2017 was “on board” with a plan for a nonprofit group to pay Brett Favre more than $1 million in welfare grant money so the retired NFL quarterback could help fund a university volleyball facility, according to a text messages between Favre and the director of the nonprofit in court documents filed on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.


Nearly every member of my family has ties to Mississippi. During school breaks, we would load up the Aerostar and head out from Detroit, down I-75 South to our grandparents' home in Cruger, a small town nestled somewhere between where Emmett Till's body was found and where Medgar Evers was assassinated.

As one would imagine in a town with fewer than 500 people, good-paying jobs in Cruger are not plentiful. The current median household income is less than $25,000, leaving roughly 35% of the population living in poverty. There are a lot of towns like Cruger in Mississippi, our nation's poorest state.

Crawford, where Hall of Famer Jerry Rice grew up, has a 26% poverty rate. Archie Manning's birthplace of Drew has a poverty rate of more than 40%.

These are the communities in most need of financial assistance.

And these are the communities Brett Favre, a Mississippi native himself, was told he was taking money from -- and he did not care.

At least $77 million in welfare funds was misspent in what officials believe is the largest public fraud in state history. Favre was sued by the state in May to recoup $1.1 million in welfare funds that he received, and recent court filings have exposed details of his involvement.

Text exchanges between Favre and officials, including then-Gov. Phil Bryant, show discussions about diverting at least $5 million to help build a volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi. That's where Favre played football and his daughter was playing volleyball at the time. Mississippi Today reported messages as far back as 2017, one year after Favre was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We are familiar with the stories of legendary athletes giving back to the communities that they came from. But taking?

What the text messages among Favre, Bryant and others reveal is not just your run-of-the-mill NFL scandal.

There will be people -- perhaps fans, maybe former players -- who will try to characterize this shameful exploit as a mistake.

Just remember this: Two years after Favre made the, ahem, alleged mistake of pushing for welfare dollars to be used for a new volleyball arena, he reached back out to Bryant for an indoor football practice facility.

Once is a mistake.

He came back for seconds.

The Hall of Fame rules may make it impossible for the NFL to expel Favre, but as we witnessed with Colin Kaepernick, the league can certainly ostracize him. For if owners thought protests during the national anthem threatened the integrity of the NFL's precious shield, then where does " sued for taking financial assistance from the poorest among us" fit in that picture?

Mississippi has been real good to the NFL, from "Sweetness" himself, Walter Payton, to the GOAT Jerry Rice to the Manning quarterback legacy and budding stars like the Rams' Cam Akers.

Many of them have family roots like mine, which are similar to those of many Black people far from the South because of the Great Migration.

This scandal is in Mississippi, but the story matters everywhere. The NFL is everywhere.

That's what made Favre a household name. He retired as the NFL's all-time leading QB in yards, touchdowns and wins.

"If you were to pay me, is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?" Favre reportedly asked Nancy New, the founder of the Mississippi Community Education Center, which was in charge of spending millions in government funds.

"We never have that information publicized," replied New, who has since pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts of bribery, fraud and racketeering for her role in the welfare scheme.

It's hard for me to see this all as a mistake.

His all-time record of interceptions -- those were "mistakes."

This isn't one.

The Los Angeles Times