The widening welfare scandal in Mississippi in which Brett Favre was a willing participant has sparked calls to get the legendary football player to be removed from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Aside from being found guilty in the court of public opinion, the NFL icon has already begun to suffer consequences from after a state auditor revealed that $70 million in welfare funds were dished out to a multimillionaire athlete, a professional wrestler, a horse farm, and a volleyball complex. From that money, $8.1 million was allegedly given to entities tied to Favre. According to reports, Favre was paid $1.1 million in federal welfare funds in 2017 and 2018 for motivational speeches he allegedly never gave.
Just last week, text messages suggested former Gov. Phil Bryant helped channel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds into a volleyball stadium project for Favre and the University of Southern Mississippi, his alma mater. Favre’s daughter also plays volleyball for the university and he received most of the fundraising credit for the project.
It’s not lost on critics that Mississippi is the poorest state in the union with nearly 34% of the state’s Black residents living at or below the poverty line, making them the ones affected the most by the welfare money scandal. Critics, including former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, have said Favre was “stealing” the welfare funds.
Now, Favre’s NFL show for SiriusXM has been temporarily suspended, just like his ESPN show. Further, at least two brands tied to Favre have taken steps to distance themselves from the embattled retired athlete, according to a report last week.
While it’s unclear whether criminal charges will arise from the situation, losing his radio shows and the brands reacting defensively could be the tip of the proverbial iceberg as the fallout from the welfare scandal shows no sign of easing.
However, it was in that context that critics — citing Major League Baseball’s adamant refusal to induct historic sluggers like Pete Rose and Barry Bonds for gambling and using performance enhancement drugs, respectfully — were calling for Favre to be removed from the hall of fame.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame said people have made angry phone calls demanding Favre be removed.
“There’s no question this has outraged a number of fans,” Pro Football Hall of Fame chief communications officer Rich Desrosiers, told the New York Times.
Regardless of how widespread the outrage over Favre’s undeniable role, historic precedent suggests that his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame remains safe from removal, let alone any official reprisal.
Back in 2020 at the height of the racial justice protests sparked by the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd, there were calls for removing former NFL owner George Preston Marshall from the hall of fame due to his supportive views on segregation. Marshall, who was inducted into the hall of fame in 1963, has been called “the most notorious racist in the National Football League” and has a legacy that includes being the last team owner to have Black players on Washington’s football team that not coincidentally carried a racist name until last year.
It was in that context that Marshall’s likeness was removed from all official team material in 2020.
However, despite those damning facts about Marshall’s unabashed racism and the actions taken by Washington’s football team, his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame is safely intact.
“Once elected, nothing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s bylaws allows for the removal of a Hall member,” the NFL Hall of Fame told NBC Sports in 2020.
So if unbridled anti-Black racism isn’t a good enough reason to kick Marshall out of the NFL Hall of Fame, then it’s likely that Favre — whose actions certainly constitute anti-Black racism, as well — will enjoy the same protections without having his hall of fame induction placed in jeopardy.
Whether those hall of fame bylaws ever get changed is anyone’s guess. But if history is any indication, they won’t.
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