Former NFL star Brett Favre says he has been unjustly accused of wrongdoing in a welfare scandal in his home state of Mississippi.
“I have been unjustly smeared in the media,” the Hall of Fame quarterback said in the statement to Fox News on Tuesday. “I have done nothing wrong, and it is past time to set the record straight.
“No one ever told me, and I did not know, that funds designated for welfare recipients were going to the University or me. I tried to help my alma mater USM [University of Southern Mississippi], a public Mississippi state university, raise funds for a wellness center. My goal was and always will be to improve the athletic facilities at my university.”
In May, the Mississippi Department of Human Services filed a civil lawsuit against Favre, three former pro wrestlers and several other people and businesses to try to recover millions of misspent welfare dollars. The lawsuit said the defendants “squandered” more than $20m from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) anti-poverty program.
Favre has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing in the case. Mississippi auditor Shad White said Favre was paid $1.1m for speeches but did not show up. Favre has repaid the money, but White said in October that Favre still owed $228,000 in interest. In a Facebook post when he repaid the first $500,000, Favre said he didn’t know the money he received came from welfare funds.
The audit also showed that $5m in TANF money had eventually ended up at USM, where Favre was once a star quarterback and where his daughter was on the volleyball team from 2017. Texts have shown Favre lobbying for funds for a volleyball arena at USM when his daughter was on the team.
“State agencies provided the funds to Nancy New’s charity, the Mississippi Community Education Center, which then gave the funds to the University, all with the full knowledge and approval of other State agencies,” Favre said in Tuesday’s statement, “including the State-wide Institute for Higher Learning, the Governor’s office and the Attorney General’s office.”
“I was told that the legal work to ensure that these funds could be accepted by the university was done by State attorneys and State employees.”