The Hall of Fame quarterback found grift a natural fit after a lifetime of impunity.

Living on grift and evading responsibility while being protected by fame, power, and media complicity describes more people than just Donald Trump. It is an apt description for his golf buddy Brett Favre. In the eyes of the sports media, Favre has lived a life less as a person than as an idea: the “gunslinging” NFL quarterback. His play was his persona. He was daring. He was reckless. He was a tough guy who played more consecutive games than anyone in NFL history. His was beloved in his home state of Mississippi and on the frozen tundra of Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.

But there was another Brett Favre hiding in plain sight. This Brett Favre was a maelstrom of demons that the people around him, including journalists, ignored or only touched with the softest of kid’s gloves. First, there was his addiction to Vicodin and booze. In 2021, long after his playing days, Favre revealed the depths of his plight, saying, “It was two pills that gave me a buzz, and then it was four. At its peak, I was taking 16 Vicodin ES all at one time.”

This was only discovered by a team doctor after Favre had a seizure. Yet, when his addiction was revealed, it was placed in the context of a player so dedicated to the sport that he would do anything to keep his consecutive games streak alive. That Favre also had a self-described alcohol addiction was not explored. He also projected an image as a family man. Yet as a gray-haired veteran quarterback for the New York Jets, Favre sent pictures of his penis to New York Jets reporter Jenn Sterger and voicemails asking her to come to his hotel room. This despite the fact that she didn’t even know him. Favre just assumed that she would arrive, like a pizza order, at his door. “A lot of people don’t realize I’ve never met Brett Favre,” she said in 2018. “I don’t know him. I’ve never met him personally, never shaken his hand, never said hello, never introduced myself. So to this day, a lot of people don’t realize I was cyber-bullied. I wasn’t his mistress, I wasn’t his girlfriend, we had no physical interaction at all, and I think that that’s something, to this day, that still shocks people.”

Then when his camera vids were released, it was Sterger, not Favre, who paid the price with her career, as she became buried under the label “the Brett Favre girl.”

Favre, of course, kept on going, playing at an MVP level for the Minnesota Vikings, always the aw-shucks gunslinger with whom the media was besotted. (A tough white quarterback is their catnip.) Post playing days, Favre has, far from a pariah, had a regular gig on Sirius XM radio, been feted at Lambeau, and, of course, been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot. The media has loved Favre and, while raking other scandal-plagued athletes across the coals, has often excused him as if he were an extra in The Dukes of Hazzard, just a “good ol’ boy” and simply Brett being Brett.

Knowing that history of this man’s being given a privileged pass at every opportunity is critical to understanding how Favre could allegedly fleece the poorest residents of his home state of Mississippi by taking money earmarked for welfare recipients in order to funnel millions of dollars to his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, to build a volleyball arena. (Favre’s daughter played volleyball for the school.) Favre denies all the charges being levied against him, saying he had no knowledge of any of this chicanery. But we have text messages that strongly imply Favre knew exactly what he was doing and was concerned that the press would find out. We also have indications from more damning texts that former Governor Phil Bryant was in on the grift. We will need to see how the legal system pursues this. But given the abject poverty in the state of Mississippi and the horrific water conditions in Jackson, Miss.—something the current governor, Tate Reeves, seems to find amusing—Favre’s alleged money laundering and even just his access to these funds is gobsmacking.

Favre had recently been cited for taking money from the state of Mississippi to do “motivational talks” and then not doing the talks. Yet he was still given the keys to the state’s cookie jar for the alleged welfare scam. Why a quarterback would have such access to state funds is one story. Why someone who made more than $100 million during his career would still have a taste for dreary, ugly grifts is another. If nothing else, it speaks to the culture of protected, privileged impunity that has surrounded and cushioned his life. His affection for golf pal Donald Trump plays as a metaphorical understanding of this. Lives like theirs don’t only catch up to the individual. The collateral damage to others is profound.

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