Brett Favre has been around long enough to know how to play the media game almost as well as he played football, which of course he did at a Hall of Fame level. It’s a big part of why even though he lost his Wrangler endorsement after sending pictures of the contents of his jeans, Favre has continued to be able to cash in on his fame with ads and even appear on product packaging.
So, a couple of days after a Mississippi state auditor’s report included details of Favre receiving $1.1 million for speeches he never made from a nonprofit that was misdirecting federal funds meant for needy families, Favre knew he needed to do some damage control. That started the same day as the auditor’s report, as Favre immediately returned $500,000, with an agreement to repay the rest, but simply giving back the money didn’t answer all the questions.
Following good PR protocol, Favre found himself a friendly arena to address the issue: ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch” radio show. Favre did a full hour on that program a couple of years ago, talking about playing golf with Derek Jeter, driving his daughter to her last AAU volleyball tournament before college, and assorted memories of playing for the Packers.
The “Tausch” in “Wilde & Tausch” is Mark Tauscher, a former Packers offensive lineman who spent the first eight years of his career protecting Favre. That’s just what his radio show did on Friday, giving Favre a chance to address the Mississippi boondoggle with his own spin.
“I did ads that ran for three years, was paid for it, no different than any other time that I’ve done endorsements for other people, and I went about my way,” Favre said on the show. “For (the auditor) to say I took $1.1 million and didn’t show up for speaking engagements is absolutely, 100% not true.”
Except it’s not just that the auditor said Favre “didn’t show up for speaking engagements.” The report does say that the Mississippi Community Education Center “provided a list of dates and events that fulfilled the contract terms” and that “upon a cursory review of those dates, auditors were able to determine that the individual contracted did not speak nor was he present for those events.” But it goes on to cite an “inability to verify that any work was performed in order to fulfill the contract.” Favre’s explanation that he “did ads that ran for three years (and) was paid for it” should have given the auditor an ability to verify work was performed, in the form of the ads themselves – like the PSA that Favre did to warn about distracted driving.
When Favre did that spot, he got positive media coverage for it in multiple states. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened for the radio PSAs that Favre is talking about in Mississippi, but you would think that a state auditor investigating a $94 million fraud case would be able to connect such a campaign to the source of its funding, not report an “inability to verify that any work was performed in order to fulfill the contract.”
It’s still reasonable to believe that Favre did not know the source of the $1.1 million was Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. As he said on the radio show, “When you are paid by your employer, do you ask them where the money comes from?” But while Favre also complained that he wasn’t contacted by the auditor (who said he did reach out to Favre’s staff before the report was released), there’s also a question to be asked as to why, if Favre was paid for work he did do, he decided to give back the money almost instantly. The correct answer to that question, wanting to make sure the money could indeed go to families in need, would be great for Favre’s public image.
Favre could use such a boost because this story isn’t over. The daughter he talked about driving to an AAU volleyball tournament on his previous “Wilde & Tausch” appearance is now a volleyball player at the University of Southern Mississippi, where, as Mississippi Today reported, Favre “was credited in local news reports with raising funds to build the $7 million” Wellness Center, the new volleyball team facility on campus.
The Wellness Center was funded in part by $5 million in dirty money from the MCEC, and Mississippi Today reported on Friday that Southern Miss knew “that funding for construction of a new volleyball stadium on campus came from a Mississippi Department of Human Services block grant.”
Again, it’s reasonable to believe that Favre would not have had knowledge of this, but he’s still adjacent to it in a way that would be uncomfortable. Going with Tauscher, as during his time with the Packers, gave Favre time to scramble, but that doesn’t mean he’s gotten out from under pressure.