Editorial: It’s Time to Pay the Money Back


Sean Smith

The Wellness Center on the USM campus.

Welfare funds were created for families and/or people who cannot completely provide for themselves. For some, they may be the difference between being able to keep lights on or food in their kitchens.

In Mississippi, other than food tamps, one of the most significant welfare programs is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This program was created to provide benefits for families with needy children that are under the age of 18. According to Mississippi Today, approximately 3,000 families in Mississippi are receiving this aid.

However, in 2017, this assistance was taken advantage of and misused by people who make more than enough money to support efforts themselves. Brett Favre, notable USM football alum and professional football legend, is one of the most famous individuals involved with this scandal. Five million dollars of welfare-intended funds was allegedly taken from Mississippi Communication Education Center to build a well-equipped volleyball facility on USM’s Hattiesburg campus. Other notable faces involved were Nancy New, a member of the USM Athletic Foundation and John Davis, the director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. New and Davis helped Favre acquire the funds.

The scandal is killing Favre’s reputation and it’s taking USM down with it. It’s hard to understand why Favre completed these actions, however the solution seems simple enough: Someone needs to give back the money.

So far, Favre has paid back $1.1 million of the misused funds, but he did so without including the incurred interest of $228,000. Favre was paid $137 million in his 20-year football career. Why couldn’t he have funded this project out of his pocket?

In this media, Favre’s brand is prided on being “for the people” but how can one be pro-people but misuse funds that could have helped so many? Favre’s charity, Favre 4 Hope, whose mission is to support “disadvantaged and disabled children and breast cancer patients,” donated more than $130,000 to USM’s Athletic Foundation and in 2019 and 2020, the foundation became the single biggest beneficiary from the charity.

Text messages from 2019 also reveal that Favre seemed to know what he had done was wrong, but otherwise, did not seem to care about the consequences of his actions. The messages were between Favre and ex-governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, one stating “We are going to get there. This was a great meeting. But we have to follow the law. I am too old for Federal Prison,” with an added smiley face emoji following the message.

Favre’s daughter also played for the USM volleyball team for four years, so it makes sense that he would have a new facility built for the sport that she played. However, what kind of example is that setting for his daughter?

Not only were his actions selfish, but they were unethical. As a student at USM, after the revelations of this scandal, it makes me wonder what other corruption has been swept under the rug by those who are supposed to have good intentions for the university. What other secrets lie below the surface?

His actions are appalling and shouldn’t be tolerated. Either Favre or the university should pay back the money to the state in full, plus interest, and an apology should be issued. Somebody has to pay it back and the university needs to talk about the matter.