Texts reportedly show Brett Favre seeking millions in federal welfare funds for Southern Miss volleyball stadium

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MADISON, WISCONSIN - JUNE 11: Former NFL player Brett Favre stands on the 14th green during the Celebrity Foursome at the second round of the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge Golf Club on June 11, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Brett Favre's Mississippi welfare scandal keeps getting bigger. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Throughout his Mississippi welfare fund scandal, Brett Favre has pleaded innocence or, at worst, ignorance.

No, he didn't just take the $1.1 million and run, he actually did record ads for the nonprofit involved. No, he had no idea that money came from a program intended to help needy families. No, he really did pay back the money (with no interest).

A new report from Mississippi Today published Tuesday features texts that potentially blow a fairly large hole into those denials, and also explains why a man who was paid around $138 million in salary from his NFL career would take a seven-figure payout from a welfare fund.

It was all, allegedly, for a volleyball stadium.

Texts reportedly show Brett Favre coordinating welfare payments for volleyball stadium

A series of text messages entered Monday into the state of Mississippi's civil lawsuit over the welfare scandal reportedly show then-Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant looking for ways to find help for the Green Bay Packers great.

Favre had reportedly been seeking financial support to build a new, state-of-the-art volleyball stadium at his alma mater of Southern Miss, where his daughter was playing volleyball.

The texts reportedly show Bryant guiding Favre on how to write a funding proposal that would be accepted by the Mississippi Department of Human Service and him coordinating with Nancy New, who has since pleaded guilty to a litany of state and federal charges over the scheme.

From Mississippi Today:

“Just left Brett Favre,” Bryant texted nonprofit founder Nancy New in July of 2019, within weeks of Davis’ departure. “Can we help him with his project. We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your projects on course.”

When Favre asked Bryant how the new agency director might affect their plans to fund the volleyball stadium, Bryant assured him, “I will handle that… long story but had to make a change. But I will call Nancy and see what it will take,” according to the filing and a text Favre forwarded to New.

The texts were reportedly filed by an attorney representing New, a friend of Bryant's wife, in the civil lawsuit against her. The scandal, which has publicly plagued Favre since May 2020, revolves around how approximately $77 million in funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (which is intended to do exactly what its name suggests) ended up in the hands of, among others, Favre, a professional wrestler, a personal trainer for legislators and, most important, a volleyball stadium.

Much of that money allegedly flowed through New's Mississippi Community Education Center, and one of its biggest projects was allegedly channeling $5 million dollars to the Southern Miss volleyball stadium.

Even the $1.1 million Favre personally received in exchange for recording some ads was allegedly a scheme to funnel more money into the volleyball stadium. As one text message conversation shows, Favre was not keen on the story of where he was getting the money leaking out:

Favre: If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?

New: No, we never have had that information publicized. I understand you being uneasy about that though. Let's see what happens on Monday with the conversation with some of the folks at Southern [Miss]. Maybe it will click with them. Hopefully.

Favre: Ok thanks

New: Wow, just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He is on board with us! We will get this done!

Favre: Awesome I needed to hear that for sure

The payments toward Favre and the volleyball stadium would eventually be revealed by Mississippi state auditor Shad White.

Favre and Bryant have denied pretty much all wrongdoing as this case has played out, so those texts will require some explaining. Bryant responded to Mississippi Today with a statement that did not address the content of the texts, but castigated New's team for not observing a protective order.

Per Mississippi Today, federal regulations prohibit states from using TANF funds on "brick and mortar," which New and her son apparently circumvented by disguising the project as a lease agreement involving the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation.

The Mississippi Today story includes several more details on Bryant's involvement in the alleged scheme, including apparent plans to name the stadium after him and how the planners intended to present the stadium as a "wellness center" to justify the non-profit's involvement.

Brett Favre took credit for raising volleyball funds

The lion's share of the Southern Miss volleyball stadium funds reportedly came from TANF by way of the Mississippi Community Education Center and Favre himself. The Pro Football Hall of Famer neglected to mention that when discussing the story before the scandal was revealed.

From the Associated Press in Jan. 2020:

Southern Miss remains close to Favre’s heart. He and wife Deanna, who have the Favre4Hope foundation, recently raised funds to build a volleyball center at the school. Favre’s daughter, Breleigh, has played the sport there.

"We wanted to do something for a high school and [Southern Miss]," he says. "We built one at Oak Grove High School [in Hattiesburg, where Favre has done some football coaching]. And for Southern Miss, that was difficult — it’s hard to get people to donate for volleyball. But we'll be opening an $8 million facility that will be as good as any in the country at Southern Mississippi."

Favre has since been questioned by the FBI over the alleged scheme.