Lawyers for retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre will ask a federal appeals court to revive a defamation lawsuit against former tight end Shannon Sharpe. The lawsuit stems from Sharpe’s comments amid the backdrop of a Mississippi welfare scandal, one of the state’s largest public corruption cases.

In October, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Sharpe’s remarks on a sports broadcast were constitutionally protected. Sharpe had criticized Favre’s connection to the welfare misspending case on the Fox Sports show “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed,” saying Favre “stole money from people that really needed that money.”

Brett Favre Appeals Dismissal of Defamation Lawsuit Against Shannon Sharpe
Shannon Sharpe, former tight end for the Denver Broncos, now serves as co-host of ESPN’s First Take.

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White reported that from 2016 to 2019, the Mississippi Department of Human Services misspent over $77 million intended for the poorest people in the U.S. White found that Favre improperly received $1.1 million in speaking fees from a nonprofit that used TANF money with the department’s approval. The funds were directed toward a $5 million volleyball arena at The University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter played.

Although Favre repaid the $1.1 million, he still owes $729,790 due to interest accrual. Favre denies wrongdoing and faces no criminal charges, though he is among over three dozen defendants in a state Department of Human Services lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett ruled that Sharpe’s comments were protected “rhetorical hyperbole.” Favre’s attorneys argue that Sharpe’s statements could be interpreted as factual assertions of theft. Sharpe’s attorneys maintain that the comments were “loose, figurative language” about a significant public issue.