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Law

Brett Favre’s Defamation Lawsuit Against Shannon Sharpe Dismissed

  • Sharpe, Pat McAfee were sued over comments about Favre’s ties to the Mississippi welfare scandal.
  • Federal judge concludes that the First Amendment protects Sharpe’s statements.
Favre Sharpe
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: This story was updated 11/29/23 with the notice of appeal.

A federal judge dismissed Brett Favre’s defamation lawsuit against Shannon Sharpe on Monday, the latest case brought by Favre over comments made about his alleged links to the Mississippi welfare scandal to conclude with any money changing hands. 

Favre filed a notice of appeal to the 5th Circuit a month after the judge’s decision.

Favre sued Sharpe, Pat McAfee, and Mississippi State Auditor Shad White in February, alleging they made “false and defamatory statements” about Favre’s guilt related to the largest public corruption scandal in Mississippi history. McAfee said his lawsuit was resolved in May “with no settlement paid.”

“Pat McAfee issued an apology,” Sharpe said on his Nightcap podcast with Chad Johnson late Monday night. “Me, I wasn’t going to issue an apology because if I had issued an apology, I would have felt I had done something wrong. He wouldn’t have apologized if he didn’t feel he had done anything wrong.”

U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi Keith Starrett wrote that Sharpe’s comments are protected by the First Amendment, and granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice, meaning Favre won’t be able to refile the case. 

“No reasonable person listening to the broadcast would think that Favre actually went into the homes of poor people and took their money—that he committed the crime of theft/larceny against any particular poor person in Mississippi,” Starrett wrote in the 12-page opinion

“Sharpe’s comments were made against the backdrop of longstanding media coverage of Favre’s role in the welfare scandal and the state’s lawsuit against Favre. Listeners would have recognized Sharpe’s statements as rhetorical hyperbole.”

Favre is among more than 40 defendants in a lawsuit brought by the Mississippi Department of Human Services that seeks to recover more than $77 million of misappropriated welfare funds. Favre has not been charged criminally and has denied any wrongdoing. 

“I was going to take it to the highest court in the land,” Sharpe said on Nightcap. “The thing that I had on my side is [that] Shannon got some pretty deep pockets. I had a very, very good law firm out of DC and Mississippi that presented my case. I’m glad it’s behind me.

“Hopefully, the people of Mississippi have their day in court and everything gets worked out about what transpired down there.”

Sharpe’s comments about Favre on his former show, FS1’s “Undisputed,” from September 2022, were the focus of Favre’s lawsuit that sought unspecified monetary damages. Sharpe has since joined the cast of ESPN’s “First Take.”

“So, if that is the poorest state, Brett Favre is taking from the underserved,” Sharpe said on air. “You made a hundred plus million dollars in the NFL, and to talk about, well, [Favre] didn’t know. This is what Brett Favre texted, ‘If you were to pay me, is there any way the media can find out where it came from and how much?’ … “He stole money from people that really needed that money.”

Michael Hurst, Jr, one of Sharpe’s attorneys, wrote in a motion to dismiss filed in May that “Sharpe’s comments are not actionable, and the complaint is irreparably defective on its face.”

The defamation lawsuit against White, the state auditor, remains ongoing in state court.

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