Brett Favre welfare scandal shows that former QB's image is a fraud, too | Opinion

Nancy Armour

It should not have taken stealing money from some of the poorest people in our country to recognize and acknowledge that Brett Favre is a garbage human.

He’d long ago established his selfishness, holding the Green Bay Packers hostage offseason after offseason while he hemmed and hawed about whether to keep playing. Showed off his vindictive streak, too, giving Packers fans who’d revered him and excused his shortcomings the middle finger by signing with archrival Minnesota at his first chance.

Worst, Favre told us exactly who he was when he sexually harassed a New York Jets employee in 2008, sending her unwanted texts and explicit photos. Instead of Favre being held to account, it was her career that was destroyed and her reputation that was sullied.

WHAT WE KNOW:Brett Favre and his texts in Mississippi welfare scandal

NFL NEWSLETTER:Sign up now for exclusive content sent to your inbox

Brett Favre

As Favre coasted into the Hall of Fame, nary a word was said about any of this.

“He’s been a sleazeball. He’s been shady. For a very, very long time,” Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe said Wednesday, delivering a blistering critique of Favre during the “Undisputed” show he co-hosts on FS1.

And we let him get away with it. He had a great backstory and seemed to be an ordinary guy who just happened to have been blessed with a golden arm, and we didn’t want to consider that the reality of who Favre is might differ from what we’d made him out to be.

Or as Sharpe said, “When they like you, you’re untouchable. And you know that.”

Blind adoration is a dangerous thing, and yet we cannot help ourselves. We become mesmerized by someone’s talents, be it in sports, the arts, business or politics, and assume those abilities are a reflection of their character, too. That because someone is better than almost everyone else at what they do, they must also be a good human.

Sometimes they are. In some instances they are. But too often one has nothing to do with the other.

We spin these romanticized narratives out of the smallest glimpses into someone’s life, putting him or her up on a pedestal and mythologizing them like some modern-day god. When, really, they’re as complicated and flawed as the rest of us and, given enough chances, they’ll prove it.

Yes, part of the anger at Favre now is because of what he’s accused of doing.

A report Tuesday by Mississippi Today revealed that Favre and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant were part of a scheme to divert at least $5 million in welfare funds to build a volleyball stadium at Southern Mississippi. Favre went to Southern Miss, and his daughter was playing volleyball there at the time of the stadium project.

“If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre said in one text to the head of a nonprofit that was supposed to distribute federal welfare money to needy residents in Mississippi, the poorest state in the country.

In another text, Favre says Bryant “said to me just a second ago that he has seen (the funding proposal) but hint hint that you need to reword it to get it accepted.”

When Mississippi Today asked Favre in 2020 if he’d ever talked to Bryant about the volleyball stadium, Favre replied, “No.”  

The $1.1 million Mississippi is famously trying to claw back from Favre for speeches he didn’t give to promote an anti-poverty program was also part of the stadium scheme. In total, state auditors have estimated that at least $77 million in money for the poor was misspent.

Favre has denied any wrongdoing, and he has not been charged. But the details are disgraceful, particularly for someone who could have funded the stadium project himself after earning almost $140 million in the NFL and millions more for his work as a pitchman.

“(It’s) so grotesque, so monstrous. I don't know how someone like that looks in the mirror. I just don't,” Jeff Pearlman said on Twitter on Tuesday night, asking that people no longer buy or read his biography of Favre.

“There are sooooo many better people worthy of your reading hours. Of your time,” Pearlman said. “I prefer crumbs like Brett Favre shuffle off into the abyss, shamed by greed and selfishness.”

But if we’re being honest, some of this anger toward Favre is because he’s made us look like fools.

Favre has always been who he is. We were the ones who insisted on pretending what a great guy he was, and now we’ve been forced to admit just how wrong we were.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour