KILN, Miss. — The paint on the bar turned into wood in Broke Spoke, a biker hangout in the center of the Kyln. But through the Confederate flag front door, under the ceiling of bras left by patrons for posterity, the gold New Orleans Saints logo is still visible next to Brett Favre’s number 4, yellow, poking out of the purple Minnesota Vikings.
Kyln, a Gulf Coast city of less than 2,500, is less than an hour from New Orleans, but the hometown team has always been the one to hire Favre, whose career has taken him from Kiln to Canton.
The Hall of Famer quarterback played most of his NFL career for the Green Bay Packers (the green and yellow bar stools read “Go Pack”), but ended up with the Vikings, whom he led to the NFC Championship game against the Saints in January 2010. – push to paint.
But he belonged to his hometown—and to this local watering hole—more than anywhere else. Favre is immortalized in the parking lot, in framed photographs of the bar’s regulars at Lambo Field, with Wisconsin license plates and a yellow-and-green three-wheeler in which one of the bar’s owners, Mabel, drove across the room to high five patrons. after touchdowns. Even Favre’s mother was a regular.
When game day arrived, the cars lined up along and across the Kiln Picayune Road.
“Those were the days,” says a bartender named Hot Rod.
These days, Favre is embroiled in the biggest public fraud case in Mississippi history, embroiled in a scandal that, according to a government audit, at least $77 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds was lined into the pockets of wealthy and powerful Mississippians. . Six people were detained, five of them pleaded guilty. Favre denied wrongdoing and was not prosecuted.
For years, football-crazed Mississippi has rooted for Kiln’s most famous son. But now one of its great players is embroiled in a welfare scandal that directly affects the needy in the state with the highest poverty rate in the country and the highest percentage of blacks. Think back to all of this in different parts of Mississippi, from his hometown to the state capital to his alma mater, and you’ll see long faces and short answers.
Breaks your heart, says Hot Rod.
“How could it not be?” says Chris, a regular, looking up from his beer. Chris goes behind the bar, throws away his bottle and grabs another. This is such a place.
Hot Rod says he just wants to focus on the good times, many of which were watching Favre at the bar, which brought him happiness. And the Favre he knows has always been a decent citizen.
“I don’t have time to worry about people fighting over millions of dollars,” he says. “We have our own problems. It doesn’t concern me.”
Hot Rod points to the faded paint in front of him. On that day in January 2010, Favre rolled over to the right, threw himself over the body and was intercepted with 14 seconds left in normal time. The Vikings lost in overtime. But that’s not what Hot Rod is talking about. He talks about where the paint used to be.
The line stretched from the bar to the front door, splitting Broke Spoke in half. Saints fans on one side, Vikings on the other.
With Favre or against him.
AFTER CONNECTING FAVRE before the investigation went public more than two years ago, Belinda Gardner, an administrative assistant in the office of Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, presented different versions of the same phone call.
10 to 15 times a day, she says, people swear in her ear and argue about the merits of an audit. Calls come in from Las Vegas, Chicago, New Orleans, and, of course, Mississippi.
“[One woman said], “I don’t think you understand it all. Mr White must go [Favre] alone,” says Gardner.
Messages don’t always come over the phone. “At some point, you stop reading your Facebook posts,” says White, who also claims to have received physical threats. “We get a lot of calls from people who say, ‘Thank you for what you do,’ but we get a lot of calls from people who say, ‘Don’t mess with this guy.’
According to a government audit and civil suit, Favre received $1.1 million in TANF funds for speeches that the auditor said he never delivered. He eventually returned the money, but the state sued him for $228,000 in interest. Prevacus, a concussion drug company in which Favre is a major investor and shareholder, also received TANF funds. And the sports foundation of his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, received $5 million in benefits. The text messages show that Favre was pushing government officials to fund a new on-campus volleyball court while his daughter was on the team.
“If you paid me, the media could find out where it came from and how much?” Favre wrote to Nancy New, an official who ran a non-profit organization involved in the misappropriation of social benefits. New has since pleaded guilty to fraud.
He continued to push for money even after being told by the then governor. Phil Bryant that misappropriation of public funds can be illegal, as the texts show.
Favre’s longtime lawyer, Bud Holmes, agreed to meet with Sportzshala on September 30 at Mom and Dad’s Country Cooking in Petala, Mississippi, near Hattiesburg. But he never showed up, citing scheduling confusion. However, on the eve of Holmes told Front Office Sports that he no longer represented Favre in the welfare case.
His new attorney, Eric Herschmann, a former top Trump White House lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment. He previously said Axios that Favre “did not suspect that social security funds were being used or that others were involved in illegal activities.”
Some time after the 2020 audit was published, White said, Favre asked him to meet in person. “Absolutely not,” White replied. “You can’t have a private meeting where you could try to get rid of it.”
Instead, White said, one of his investigators met with Favre’s team and the FBI to conduct an audit.
Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens declined to comment on Favre, but told Sportzshala that state and federal investigators continue to investigate the case and “pursue all individuals who have committed any criminal conduct.”
In White’s office, the phone rings again. Gardner is preparing for the worst. But the person on the other end isn’t calling about Favre. He wants to talk about another crisis engulfing Jackson: the lack of potable water in recent weeks due to aging and underfunded infrastructure.
“My water bill,” the man says, “is about $1,000.”
“SEE IT HERE?” Dwight King says “It used to be like the Sunset Strip.”
King gestures up and down Farish Street in front of the Big Apple Inn, which is known for some of the best food in Jackson, a city where more than 80% of the population is black. The restaurant, which housed the office of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in the 1950s, is located in what was once called the “Black Mecca of Mississippi,” a center of black business.
Farish Street has shrunk over the years. King, who grew up in the area, remembers him crooning the 1970s. Now empty buildings line the street.
Smith was surprised to hear about the allegations against Favre. — Brett Favre, football player? he asked incredulously, throwing his arm back in a throwing motion. But he was not surprised to learn that public money does not reach those who need it most. He had seen it before, right here on Farish Street.
The Mississippi government provides the least public assistance in the country. Federal data show that in 2020 the state spent less than 5%, or about $3.7 million, on direct cash assistance to poor families, compared to 22% nationally.
State Senator David L. Jordan heard from countless people in his constituency. They approach him on the street where he lives in the Mississippi Delta, one of the state’s poorest regions. They want to know what is happening with the funds allocated to them, and what the government is going to do to fix it.
“These are extremely poor people,” Jordan says. “They are not loaves. Many of them are poor church people.”
But many people may not be aware of the investigation or see it as something out of the ordinary, says Vangela Wade, president and CEO of the Mississippi Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to advancing social justice. They are just trying to get through the day to scrape together enough money for gas and food for their families.
“It becomes like, ‘Well, that’s the norm,’” says Wade. “They don’t necessarily expect anything other than what they’ve seen in a lifetime.”
GREEK NIGHT in the ultra-modern volleyball building “Southern Miss”. Memphis rapper BlocBoy JB rumbles; The pit bull thumps. Athletes do limbo. A woman waves her sorority flag as about 100 people sit in the stands to watch the women’s volleyball team play Troy.
As the crowd rises to the national anthem, the announcer first asks everyone to observe a minute of silence in memory of those struggling with mental health. “Welcome to the wellness center,” he says.
According to a government audit, the nonprofit New agreed to a sublease from the University Athletic Foundation of a “multipurpose on-campus recreation center” in what White said was an attempt to legally justify the use of TANF funds. At the time, New was on the Board of Directors of the Athletic Foundation.
“In this case, [what happened was]”Well, if we lease this volleyball court with TANF funds, we justify that the court will be used as a kind of community wellness center,” White told Sportzshala.
But according to White, TANF funds were misused.
“It was a lot of money, millions of dollars, allegedly going to rent a volleyball court that has not yet been built … Very, very expensive rent of a non-existent object. This is money to help build the facility…..TANF funds cannot be used to pay for the stone and mortar structure.”
Before the volleyball court was built, White’s office asked if the non-profit New had used other…