Text messages newly revealed on Monday indicate that former NFL quarterback Brett Favre and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) communicated over an effort to use their state’s welfare funds to help build a new volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi.
According to a report by Mississippi Today published Tuesday, Favre, Bryant and others discussed ways to funnel at least $5 million in state welfare funds for the new Southern Mississippi volleyball center.
The texts were filed in the state of Mississippi’s civil lawsuit over the welfare funds scandal. Southern Mississippi’s volleyball stadium is not a part of the state’s civil lawsuit.
An attorney representing the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC), whose founder, Nancy New, previously pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts of bribery, fraud, and racketeering for her role in the welfare scheme, filed the text messages into court records.
The reported conversations happened between 2017 and 2019, when Favre’s daughter was on Southern Mississippi’s volleyball team. Favre, who spent most of his 20-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, had played football at the university.
“If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre asked New in 2017.
In response, New texted Favre that “we never have that information publicized,” adding that Bryant, who served two terms as Mississippi’s governor, approved of the plan.
“Wow, just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He is on board with us! We will get this done!” New texted Favre.
In a text message sent in 2019, Bryant told New, who was tasked with spending tens of millions of federal welfare funds in the state, that he got out of a meeting with Favre and asked if she can help with their project, according to Mississippi Today.
“Just left Brett Favre,” Bryant told New. “Can we help him with his project. We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your projects on course.”
Favre, a three-time NFL MVP, paid the remaining $600,000 he owed to the state of Mississippi last year over improperly receiving welfare money as a result of an extensive scheme.
The 52-year-old former quarterback received up to $1.1 million in welfare funds between December 2017 and June 2018 from MCEC for public speaking appearances he never made.
Mississippi’s Department of Human Services filed a civil lawsuit against Favre in May, alleging that he did not pay back interest of the $1.1 million owed, which amounted to $228,000.
In a statement to Mississippi Today, Favre’s attorney Bud Holmes denies that his client knew he received welfare funds, saying, “Brett Favre has been honorable throughout this whole thing.”
Favre, who along with Bryant hasn’t been criminally charged in the scandal, had previously told the nonprofit news organization in 2020 that he did not have any contact with Bryant about his alma mater’s volleyball center.