Brett Favre’s charity, whose mission is to support “disadvantaged and disabled children and breast cancer patients”, donated more than $130,000 to the athletic foundation at his alma mater.
According to tax records obtained by ESPN, the Favre 4 Hope charity made the donations to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation between 2018 and 2020. Favre, a Hall of Fame quarterback, played college football at USM and his daughter was on the volleyball team from 2017. Favre was also trying to raise funds for a new volleyball stadium at USM at the same time.
According to the documents seen by ESPN, in 2018 Favre 4 Hope gave the USM Athletic Foundation $60,000 and no other organization received more than $10,000. In 2019 and 2020, the USM Athletic Foundation was also the biggest single beneficiary from Favre 4 Hope.
There is no indication that the donations broke any laws but Laurie Styron, the executive director of watchdog group Charity Watch, told ESPN that charities have an ethical obligation to support causes their donors expect them to.
“If the charity told donors it was raising money for breast cancer but then spends the resulting donations on an athletic facility, the people running the organization are not fulfilling their obligations to spend the nonprofit’s donations the way its donors intended,” she said.
“Charities are not personal piggy banks for their founders to tap into for pet projects. Celebrity athletes don’t get a free pass, and if anything, should feel more of a personal obligation to set a good example by operating not only legally within the rules, but ethically so.”
Favre’s lawyer, Bud Holmes, told ESPN that his client was keen to give back to the university that had launched his career.
“He has been very generous to Southern Miss since he played ball there,” Holmes said. “Those particular [donations from Favre 4 Hope] I don’t know, but I know he has always given back, something most athletes don’t do.”
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 anti-poverty program.
Favre has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. Mississippi auditor Shad White said Favre was paid 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. He also said his charity had provided millions of dollars to poor children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.