As if Brett Favre’s blunders in (allegedly) diverting $5 million of Mississippi’s federal welfare money to build a new volleyball facility at Southern Miss wasn’t crazy enough, two concussion drug companies he backed that are also entangled in the scandal overstated the known effectiveness of their drugs to raise money, according to an ESPN report.
Court filings showed the two companies founded by Jake VanLandingham, Prevacus, and PresolMD, allegedly received more than $2.1 million in Mississippi’s funds earmarked for welfare families, the report states, all while facing financial troubles. During that time, VanLandingham pressed his investors, including Favre, for more funds. Favre, shockingly, declined to comment to ESPN for the story. VanLandingham, however, did. “I had no idea this was welfare money, and I’ve always been an upstanding person when it comes to research,” he said.
According to the lawsuit, Favre is the top outside investor in Prevacus, having allegedly put $1 million into the two companies. PresolMD and Prevacus are developing a nasal spray to treat concussions, as well as a cream to prevent or limit their effects. Favre and VanLandingham weren’t among the six people arrested and charged in 2020 as part of the alleged embezzlement. The former Mississippi welfare director has since entered a guilty plea. Farve and VanLandingham are listed among the 38 individuals and companies in a civil suit, which seeks the return of more than $20 million designated for families in need, per the report. Favre has previously denied knowing any funding was diverted welfare money.
As part of VanLandingham and Favre’s efforts to gain money for the companies, they listed Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, and Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president for health & safety innovation, as “other contacts” on a list of “Key Advisory Members and Associates” to Prevacus. An NFL spokesperson said the league was contacted by the organization but never provided funding or supported its efforts. The spokesperson also stated neither Miller nor Sills have ever been involved in the company. Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, was also among “other contacts.” An NCAA spokesperson stated in the report that neither Hainline nor the NCAA has any connections with Prevacus or VanLandingham.
VanLandingham said Favre connected him with Sills and Miller and stated the company marketing document was intended to show there was contact between Prevacus and PresolMD with the NFL and NCAA, not that the companies were officially working with them. That’s slimy and confusing. It would come off as an endorsement to most, not knowing it was unrequited. That’s a trend in the court filings obtained by ESPN.
PresolMD and Prevacus aren’t FDA-approved, but the company’s marketing document stated that they allegedly had relationships with six NFL teams. No proof as to their identities. The document also reportedly stated the companies were working on a “partnership with NFL Affiliate Groups.” Yet when asked by ESPN what that meant, VanLandingham couldn’t remember what it was referring to. It also listed 15 sports figures as key advisors, including ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder. It was conveniently pointed out in the report Werder wasn’t employed by the network when the document was released. ESPN reported that the document also included falsehoods about how many retired NFL players were affiliated with the product, if any, and claimed to have the support of the NFL Players Association during clinical trials, which the NFLPA wholeheartedly denied. An NFLPA spokesperson told ESPN: “There is no affiliation with that company or person” and also said, “If this person is representing that they have our support, that’s false.”
The NFL is still in the middle of the most intense scrutiny of its concussion protocol system since its inception in 2011. Even though Tua Tagovailoa and Nyheim Hines, the most high-profile players to be recently concussed, have returned to the field after nasty tackles that led to obvious concussion signs, the protocols’ current ability to keep NFL players safe is very much still up for debate. Yet, I’m glad they weren’t crazy enough to buy into VanLandingham and Favre’s company, given its alleged exaggerations. Do you know how messed up you must be to make the NFL look like a beacon of intelligence these days? How Favre and VanLandingham are not facing more severe consequences for their actions is beyond comprehension.