Brett Favre’s charity, whose mission is to support “disadvantaged and disabled children and breast cancer patients,” donated more than $130,000 to his alma mater’s athletic foundation.
According to tax records obtained by ESPNthe charity Favre 4 Hope 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 in the volleyball team since 2017. Favre was also trying to raise funds for a new volleyball stadium at USM at the same time.
According to 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 largest individual beneficiary of Favre 4 Hope.
There’s no indication the donations violated any laws, but Laurie Styron, executive director of the watchdog group Charity Watch, told ESPN that charities have an ethical obligation to support the causes their donors expect them to do.
“If the charity tells donors it’s raising money for breast cancer, but then donates the resulting donations to a sports facility, the people running the organization are not meeting their obligations to spend the organization’s donations. nonprofit the way the donors intended,” he said.
“Charities are not personal piggy banks for their founders to tap into their pet projects. Famous athletes don’t get a free pass, and if anything, they should feel more of a personal obligation to set a good example by operating not only legally within the rules, but also ethically.”
Favre’s attorney, Bud Holmes, told ESPN that his client wanted to give back to the university that had launched his career.
“He’s been very generous to Southern Miss since he’s played there,” Holmes said. “Those individuals [donations from Favre 4 Hope] I don’t know, but I know that he has always returned, something that most athletes don’t do.”
In May, the Mississippi Department of Human Services filed a civil lawsuit against Favre, three former professional wrestlers and several other individuals and companies to try to recover millions of lost welfare dollars. The suit says the defendants “squandered” more than $20 million from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families anti-poverty program.
Favre has not been charged with any criminal offense. Mississippi Auditor Shad White said Favre was paid for the speeches, but he did not show up. Favre paid the money back, but White said in October that Favre still owed $228,000 in interest.
In a Facebook post when he paid the first $500,000, Favre said he didn’t know the money he received came from welfare funds. He also said that his charity had provided millions of dollars to poor children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.