At some point in the past few weeks, the football portion of Brett Favre’s history started to feel trite.
It’s difficult to pinpoint that exact moment now, given that so many revelations and allegations about his character have snowballed in recent weeks. But we know the tides of his legacy didn’t turn in the wake of long-known allegations of lewd messages sent to former New York Jets gameday host Jenn Sterger, or a civil lawsuit settled with a pair of massage therapists who said the former NFL quarterback had harassed them. Those have been filed away in the pages of history for years, both known and largely ignored in the many recollections of his iconic football greatness.
But they got new life in May of 2020, when an audit of funds earmarked for the neediest residents in the state of Mississippi exposed something entirely unexpected and also completely nonsensical about Favre at that time: The NFL star who had earned almost $138 million in football salary alone had somehow gotten $1.1 million in welfare funds diverted to him. It was an oddity that lacked easy comprehension. Why would Favre of all people — undoubtedly one of the richest and most famous people in Mississippi — be given a dime of assistance funds, let alone $1.1 million?
The answer has been a slow crawl spanning nearly two and a half years, with information trickling out in civil and criminal litigation. A long and winding legal path that has not, to this point, resulted in a criminal indictment of Favre for misappropriation of nearly $8 million in welfare funds. To date, Favre has repaid $1.1 million of the money traced directly to him (but not the interest on the funds, which was requested by a state auditor).
Whether he faces additional trouble for his ties to the scammers involved in state welfare funds remains to be seen. That hasn’t stopped a robust trial in the court of public opinion, with proceedings that seem to get worse with each passing week. First with clear allegations in court filings that welfare funds landed in the laps of at least two of Favre’s pet projects: a volleyball building at the University of Southern Mississippi, and a biomedical startup that counted the quarterback as an investor and endorser. Then with batches of curious text messages showing a working relationship between Favre and some individuals wrapped up in the largest welfare fraud scheme in Mississippi history.
And now with this week’s precarious question: Why Favre’s own charity, Favre 4 Hope, donated nearly $130,000 to the University of Southern Miss Athletic Foundation, while espousing a mission of collecting donations to help “underserved and disabled children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.” According to public tax records, the Athletic reported that same charity donated the lion’s share of its disbursements to the USM Athletic Foundation, to the tune of nearly $130,000 from 2018-2020. If that timeframe sounds familiar, it’s because it also covers the same period when Favre was reportedly leaning on state officials in Mississippi for the Southern Miss volleyball project funds.
Somewhere in all of that, we hit that threshold of Favre’s football legacy becoming trite. It’s hard to contemplate his accomplishments as an NFL player when his most recent track record is a case study of how a man with power, influence, fame and access used that cocktail to allegedly finesse millions of misappropriated dollars into his desired destinations.
Surely there’s an interception joke in there somewhere but at this point, casting any of this into the spotlight of humor or football feels gross.
Favre’s football legacy is being overwritten as we speak. The picture is widening into something much more human and the questions that come along with it are disturbing. If anything, his football resume now looks like a leverage point that he used to engage in manipulation. And we’re in the process of learning whether that manipulation was crossing boundaries either purposely or recklessly (or both).
This isn’t about a football player anymore. It’s about aspects of clout and pressure and responsibility someone has when they combine the two and set off with an agenda. Most of all, it’s about a revealing crawl of information that continues to push Brett Favre’s glorified days as a quarterback far into the rearview mirror of history.