Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre is fighting back.
The former quarterback, embroiled for months in a scandal regarding the alleged misappropriation of welfare funds intended for Mississippi residents, has sued Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe and Pat McAfee for defamation of character, based on things they have allegedly said about him in connection with the Mississippi welfare situation.
“Shannon Sharpe and Pat McAfee tried to further their careers by making baseless defamatory allegations against Brett Favre,” a Favre spokesperson told DailyMail.com.
That’s a tad hyperbolic, in my opinion. Sharpe and McAfee are doing just fine on their own. They don’t need to allegedly lie about someone who hasn’t played in a dozen years in order to boost their careers.
The alleged defamation traces, frankly, to a failure to exercise caution when speaking about Favre’s situation. He has always claimed that he did not know the source of funding for payments made both to him and to the University of Southern Mississippi. He also has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing. Whenever discussing Favre’s situation, it’s important to point that out.
Sharpe, according the article regarding the lawsuit, allegedly called Favre a “sleazeball” on FS1 in September 2022, while also accusing Favre of knowingly stealing $1.1 million in Mississippi welfare funds for speeches Favre never made. McAfee allegedly accused Favre of “stealing from the poor people of Mississippi.”
“Every time his name gets brought up, we have to mention that he tied the hands of the poor people and took money right out of their pockets,” McAfee said about Favre, per the report regarding the lawsuit.
It’s always a challenge for a public figure to prove defamation. Favre will be required to show that Sharpe and McAfee acted with actual malice, which in this context means proving that they knew or should have known that the statements were false.
Also, when it comes to the issue of proving legal damages, Favre will have to show harm to his existing reputation. Which puts into issue anything relevant to his existing reputation. Which opens the door to a deep dive regarding whatever he did or didn’t do in connection with his interactions with Jenn Sterger, including but not limited to the $50,000 fine the NFL imposed on Favre for failing to cooperate with its internal investigation.
Really, any allegedly shady and/or improper activities in which Favre has engaged become fair game for the litigation. Also, the fact that truth is an absolute defense to defamation gives Sharpe and McAfee license to explore the question of whether Favre did in fact do what they said he did.
For those reasons, Favre would have been well advised to let this go. He has given Sharpe and McAfee a blank check to delve into any nook and cranny of Favre’s life in an effort either to prove that the statements they made were true, to show that he didn’t have a good reputation before their comments were made, or both.