Before Brett Favre allegedly siphoned $5 million in Mississippi welfare funds to build a new volleyball facility at Southern Miss—his alma mater and where his daughter played the sport—his nonprofit for “disadvantaged children” helped bankroll a new volleyball facility at her top-performing high school, The Daily Beast has learned.
His charity also shelled out more than $130,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi's athletic club between 2018 and 2020, records show, when he was working to build a volleyball facility there—apparently with state welfare funds.
The 52-year-old retired quarterback is embroiled in his home state’s largest-ever public 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 pro wrestlers, and a one-time college football star’s residence and horse ranch.
The ex-Green Bay Packer hasn’t been charged with a crime. But he and multiple other parties are facing a civil suit from DHS, which is attempting to recoup the squandered millions that belonged to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
According to the complaint, Favre also coaxed the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, a subgrantee of DHS that received tens of millions in federal money, to invest $2.1 million in biotech firm 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 repaid the state for the fees, though reportedly still owes $228,000 in interest.)
Favre’s lawyer, Bud Holmes, has said the NFL legend didn’t know he’d received funds from the federal welfare program. He recently told Insider that his client “has been honorable from day one” and “has done so much charity work—and that’s all it was here.”
This latest scandal involving Favre, however, has spawned a public backlash that’s led to Sirius XM putting his show on time out and ESPN Milwaukee halting his weekly radio appearances, heat on Twitter including from former teammates and his biographer, and a Change.org petition from a “lifelong Green Bay Packers fan” to boot him from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The brewing outrage is perhaps no surprise to some residents of Hattiesburg who helped erect 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 Brett and Deanna Favre advocated for the gym since 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 then-superintendent told the outlet, adding, “Currently nine teams use the OGHS gym. There is a great need for this facility.”
A review of nonprofit tax records reveals that Favre’s foundation, Favre4Hope, sent $60,000 to the booster club of suburban Oak Grove, which is among the state’s highest-rated high schools. The donation stood out among his group’s regular beneficiaries which 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 nearly two years after the Oak Grove Lady Warriors’ new stadium was built, the 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 wasn’t listed as a defendant, he was named in a letter from the contractor’s attorney attached to the civil complaint.
The lawyer 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 upon the assurances of the Oak Grove Warrior Booster Club and Mr. Favre that Rozier would be paid,” states the November 2016 letter.
“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 to pay Rozier or at a minimum to develop a plan for doing so.”
In an affidavit filed in the case, the firm’s vice president Michael Rozier said that “the Warrior Club held itself out to be and acted like the owner of the volleyball facility. The Warrior Club’s representatives 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 firm “which detailed the relationship of the parties as to the construction of the volleyball facility,” but that the firm “rejected the terms and conditions of the proposed MOU” and “refused to sign” it. The firm “never agreed to be bound by the terms and provisions of the MOU,” he adds.
A judge later ruled in the booster club’s favor, after finding that no written or implied contract existed between it and the construction firm.
Rozier Construction did not return messages seeking comment.
But one person with knowledge of the situation told The Daily Beast the small-town legal scuffle reflected poorly on Favre. “He is a snake,” said the person, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s just another example of character.”
The source said that Favre “wanted an indoor facility built” 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 friends with him, and Brett wouldn’t pay it, was trying to renege on it.”
“It was a shitty situation and wrong,” they fumed.
According to the source, Michael Rozier’s daughter also played volleyball at Oak Grove and that’s likely how his construction firm got involved in the project.
At the time, the person said, Favre would star in commercials for Farm Bureau insurance and have the company send his payments to the booster club for the facility.
“It was 100 percent something that Brett wanted,” said the source, who noted Favre was also briefly offensive coordinator for Oak Grove High’s football team. “But also he did do a lot for that community. He was loved there. He’s like a god kind of person.”
“But it’s like there were some kinks in his armor when he did that, tried to stiff the contractor and the boosters. I would say that probably left a bad taste.”
Sean Little, vice president of the booster club, told The Daily Beast, “The Warrior Club’s official response is no comment.” When asked about Rozier’s lawsuit, Little said, “That’s in our past and we have no comment.”
Mitch Brent, a former director of the Warrior Club, said he was angry the media was 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 quite 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 over nonpayment, Brent said, “That was between him and Brett, I don’t know.”
In a 2020 interview with the AP, Favre mentioned he had raised funds for volleyball centers at the University of Southern Mississippi—and Oak Grove High.
“We wanted to do something for a high school and (Southern Miss),” Favre said. “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, who earned roughly $140 million as a star NFL player over two decades, added that he was proud of his charitable endeavors 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 do try to give back.”
Nonprofit local news outlet Mississippi Today was first to publish text messages that pulled back the curtain on the welfare scandal and revealed that Favre and former Gov. Phil Bryant coordinated with Mississippi Community Education Center founder Nancy New to obtain funding for the volleyball stadium. “Nancy Santa came today and dropped some money off,” Favre texted New in December 2017, “thank you my goodness thank you. We need to setup the promo for you soon. Your way to kind [sic].”
In April, New and her son Zach pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the fraud scheme and have 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 conspiring to defraud the state out of millions in federal funds.
Favre had earlier expressed concern the funding avenue would become public.
“If you were to pay me,” he texted New, “is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?”