After Mississippi spent millions of dollars in welfare money on Brett Favre’s pet project, a volleyball arena at his alma mater where his daughter was playing, the retired NFL quarterback tried two years later to get additional cash from the state’s welfare agency for another sports facility, new court documents show. The governor at the time, Republican Phil Bryant, texted in 2019 with Favre, who wanted to build an indoor practice facility for the University of Southern Mississippi’s football team. Bryant told him federal money for children and low-income adults is “tightly controlled” and “improper use could result in violation of Federal Law.” Text messages between Bryant and Favre are in court documents filed Friday by Bryant’s lawyers, which seek to show the governor was willing to help Favre raise private money for the volleyball facility starting in 2017 and was unaware for more than two years that welfare money was going to the project, the AP reports.
As part of its largest-ever public corruption case, Mississippi has filed a civil lawsuit against Favre and others to recover more than $20 million in misspent welfare money intended to help needy people in one of the country's poorest states. Bryant and Favre are not facing criminal charges, and Bryant is not among those named in the state’s civil lawsuit. He made his court filing in response to a subpoena sent to him in late July by attorneys for a nonprofit organization that is being sued, which was run by Nancy New and her son, both of whom pleaded guilty to criminal charges in April. A former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, John Davis, pleaded guilty Thursday; he was appointed by Bryant in February 2016 and fired by him in July 2019. The News and Davis have all agreed to testify against others.
Favre's request for money from the Mississippi Department of Human Services to fund the football facility went nowhere. Favre made the request July 28, 2019, as he was unsuccessfully trying to recruit the son of another retired NFL player, Deion Sanders, to the university in Hattiesburg. Favre played football at the University of Southern Mississippi before going to the NFL in 1991. Bryant and New are also alumni, and Favre wrote to Bryant that having an indoor practice facility would give the football program “instant credibility.” Favre’s daughter started playing volleyball at the university in 2017, and early text messages about the volleyball facility "focused on private donations and corporate sponsorships," Bryant's attorneys said in the court filing; it wasn't until 2019 that things got sticky. (Read more at the AP.)