Before Brett Favre allegedly siphoned off $5 million in Mississippi charitable funds to build a new volleyball facility at Southern Miss — his alma mater and where his daughter played the sport — his nonprofit for “underprivileged kids” helped bankroll a new volleyball facility at her top-ranked high school, The Daily Beast has learned.
His charity also spent more than $130,000 on the University of Southern Mississippi’s athletic club between 2018 and 2020, records show, as he worked to build a volleyball facility there—apparently with state charitable funds.
The 52-year-old retired quarterback is involved in his home state’s largest ever audience corruption scandal, one where $77 million intended for Mississippi’s neediest residents was instead allegedly funneled to pet projects and personal expenses for friends and family of officials with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and purported nonprofits receiving the funds. Among the beneficiaries of the scheme are Favre, three former professional wrestlers, and the residence and horse ranch of a former college football star.
The ex-Green Bay Packer has not been charged with a crime. But he and multiple other parties are facing a civil lawsuit from DHS, which is trying to recover the wasted millions that belonged to the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program.
According to the complaint, Favre also bullied the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, a DHS grantee that received tens of millions in federal money, to invest $2.1 million in biotech company Prevacus and a corporate affiliate, of which Favre was a major backer. This center also paid Favre $1.1 million for motivational speeches he never gave. (Favre paid the state for the fees, though reportedly still owes $228,000 in interest.)
Favre’s attorney, Bud Holmes, said the NFL legend did not know he received funds from the federal welfare program. He just told Insider that his client “was honorable from the first day” and “did so much charity—and that’s all here.”
This latest scandal involving Favre, however, sparked a public backlash that led to Sirius XM putting his show on hold and ESPN Milwaukee to end its weekly radio appearances, heat on Twitter including former teammates and his biographerand Change.org a petition of “lifelong Green Bay Packers fan” to induct him from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The brewing outrage may come as no surprise to some Hattiesburg residents who helped build another Favre passion project: a $1.4 million volleyball facility for Oak Grove High School in 2015.
In January of that year, community newspaper the Lamar Times reported that Brett and Deanna Favre advocated for the gym because their daughter Breleigh was a sophomore and avid volleyball player there. “They contacted Mike Rozier, a local builder, and it really grew from there,” the school district’s superintendent at the time told the outlet, adding, “There are currently nine teams using the OGHS gymnasium. There is a great need for this facility.”
A review of nonprofit tax records reveals that Favre’s foundation, Favre4Hope, sent $60,000 to suburban Oak Grove’s booster club, which is among the state’s. highest rated high schools. The gift stood out among the regular beneficiaries of his group that include the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics, cancer charity the Pink Ribbon Fund, and Hope Haven, which serves abused and neglected children in Mississippi.
But almost two years after the Oak Grove Lady Warriors’ new stadium was built, contractor Mike Rozier Construction filed a lawsuit against the boosters, known as the Warrior Club, claiming the group still owed them $328,000. While Favre was not listed as a defendant, he was named in a letter from the contractor’s attorney related to the civil complaint.
The attorney addressed the letter demanding payment to the school district superintendent, booster club president, and Favre and his company Favre Enterprises. “Rozier completed the construction of the Volleyball Facility on the assurances of the Oak Grove Warrior Booster Club and Mr. Favre that Rozier would be paid,” the November 2016 letter states.
“In addition to the Warrior Booster Club and Mr. Favre, the School District has greatly benefited from the Volleyball Facility,” the missive continues, adding: “Rozier has performed in good faith throughout this Project. It is time for the parties to whom this letter is addressed, pay Rozier or at least work out a plan to do so.”
In an affidavit filed in the case, the vice president of the company Michael Rozier said that “the Warrior Club showed itself to be and acted as the owner of the volleyball facility. The representatives of the Warrior Club were Brett and Deanna Favre.”
Rozier says that in April 2015, he received an unsigned copy of a memorandum of understanding between the booster club and the construction company “which detailed the parties’ relationship regarding the construction of the volleyball facility,” but that the company “rejected the terms and conditions of the proposed MOU” and “refused to sign” it. The company “never agreed to be bound by the terms and provisions of the MOU,” he adds.
A judge later ruled in favor of the booster club, after finding that no written or implied contract existed between it and the construction company.
Rozier Construction did not return messages seeking comment.
But one person with knowledge of the situation told The Daily Beast that the city’s legal turmoil reflected poorly on Favre. “He’s a snake,” said the person, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s just another example of character.”
The source said Favre “wanted to build an indoor facility” and raised funds for it and directed his entities to donate money, including at least $50,000 from his foundation.
“Basically at the end of it, the contractor was still owed fees,” the person added. “And Brett was a friend of his, and Brett wouldn’t pay it, tried to deny it.”
“It was a nasty situation and wrong,” they fumed.
According to the source, Michael Rozier’s daughter also played volleyball at Oak Grove and that’s probably how his construction company got involved in the project.
At the time, the person said, Favre would star in commercials for Farm Bureau insurance and for the company to send his payments to the booster club for the facility.
“It was 100 percent something that Brett wanted,” said the source, who noted that Favre was also in short offensive coordinator for the Oak Grove High football team. “But he also did a lot for that community. He was loved there. He is like a divine man.”
“But it’s like there were some chinks in his armor when he did that, tried to stiffen the contractor and the boosters. I’d say that probably left a bad taste.”
Sean Little, vice president of the booster club, told The Daily Beast, “The official response from the Warrior Club is no comment.” Asked about Rozier’s lawsuit, Little said, “That’s in our past and we have no comment.”
Mitch Brent, former director of the Warriors Club, said he is angry that the media is attacking Favre. “If you’re interested in finding more dirt, then I’m not interested in talking to you,” he told a Daily Beast reporter. “You just said he donated $60,000 to the booster club, and frankly that’s the tip of the iceberg of the good things he’s done. But he only gets publicity for the bad things, and I don’t think that’s fair.” Asked why Rozier sued the booster club for nonpayment, Brent said, “That was between him and Brett, I don’t know.”
In a 2020 interview with the APFavre mentioned that he raised funds for volleyball centers at the University of Southern Mississippi – and Oak Grove High.
“We wanted to do something for high school and (Southern Miss),” Favre said. “We built one at Oak Grove High School (in Hattiesburg, where Favre did some football coaching). And for Southern Miss, that was hard — it’s hard to get people to donate for volleyball. But we’re going to open an $8 million facility that will be the same as good as any in the country on the South Mississippi.”
Favre, who earned about $140 million as an NFL star over two decades, added that he is proud of his charitable efforts through Favre4Hope.
“It would be a shame if people who can help don’t help,” Favre said. “By no means are we perfect, but we try to give back.”
Non-profit local news outlet Mississippi Today was the first to release text messages that pulled back the curtain on the welfare scandal and revealed that Favre and former Governor Phil Bryant coordinated with Mississippi Community Education Center founder Nancy New to obtain funding for the volleyball stadium. “Nancy Santa came today and dropped off some money,” Favre wrote to New in December 2017, “thank you my god thank you. We need to set up the promotion for you soon. Your kind way [sic].”
In April, New and her son Zach pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the fraud scheme and agreed to testify against their co-defendants, Mississippi Today reported. And last week, John Davis, the former executive director of the Missouri Department of Human Services, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the state of millions in federal funds.
Favre had earlier expressed concern that the funding avenue would become public.
“If you would pay me,” he texted Nova“can the media find out where it came from and how much?”