A few weeks ago, text messages from Brett Favre were released detailing that he received state welfare funding from former Mississippi governor Phil Bryant to build a new indoor volleyball practice facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, his alma mater and where his daughter plays.
A new report released by The Athletic on Wednesday night detailed that Favre’s charitable foundation, Favre 4 Hope, donated more than $130,000 to USM around the same time the former NFL quarterback was working with the state governor to fund a new volleyball center at the school.
The foundation states that it aims to support disadvantaged children and cancer patients.
Tax records obtained by The Athletic detailed that Favre 4 Hope donated money to USM from 2018 to ’20. In ’18, the foundation sent the USM Athletic Foundation $60,000, even though no other charities received $10,000 from the foundation that year.
In 2019, Favre 4 Hope gave $46,817, while the next highest donation to a charity was just $11,000. Then, in 2020, the USM Athletic Foundation received $26,175, while, once again, no other charities were given more than $10,000.
Favre’s foundation donated to his daughter’s volleyball team while she was in high school, too. In 2015, Oak Grove High in Hattiesburg, Miss., received a $60,000 donation from Favre 4 Hope to its booster club. The Booster Club added $349 to that total for an “athletic facility.”
However, the tax records do not explain the conditions of the donations. But it is likely that the conditions did not align with Favre 4 Hope’s mission to help disadvantaged children and those dealing with cancer.
“You can’t say you’re raising money for one purpose and then spend it on something totally different,” executive director of CharityWatch Laurie Styron said to The Athletic. “Charities have an ethical obligation, and in some cases a legal obligation, to fulfill the intentions of its donors in the way funds are spent.”
”There’s the letter of the law, there’s the spirit of the law and it’s something where it would probably be tough to make a legal case but it still doesn’t look good,” Chief Operating Officer of the National Council of Nonprofits Rick Cohen said. “It isn’t unheard of for a nonprofit to expand its mission or change its mission over time if they find they need to redirect. That does not seem to be the case here.”
Favre is currently one of dozens of individuals being sued by the state of Mississippi for misappropriating funds for the USM volleyball facility. Text messages obtained by Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today show Favre, Governor Bryant, nonprofit founder Nancy New and former welfare agency director John Davis worked together to funnel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds toward the building of the stadium.
In the texts, Favre reportedly asks New whether any money he’d received for the volleyball stadium can be traced back to its source by the media. New said no, saying she understands why Favre would be “uneasy about that.”
New has already pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts related to the fraud case in which nonprofit leaders misspent at least $77 million in money that was earmarked to belong to those in need, according to Wolfe.
New is helping the prosecution as part of her plea deal and says she worked to help Favre at the instruction of Bryant. The messages also show that Favre reportedly received a separate $1.1 million welfare contract to promote the program, with Favre offering to “record a few radio spots.” However, he did not do the radio appearances.
Davis recently pleaded guilty to two federal charges, including one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal loans and one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, according to a release from the US Department of Justice.
Favre has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing and has reportedly repaid the $1.1 million. He said that he did not know the money he received came from welfare funds.
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