In a legal showdown, former NFL quarterback Brett Favre’s defamation lawsuit against fellow football legend Shannon Sharpe has been dismissed by a federal judge.
The ruling, handed down on Monday, cited constitutional protections for free speech and set a precedent that left the legal blitz in tatters.
The dispute ignited when Sharpe, now known for his ESPN commentary, took aim at Favre’s alleged involvement in a welfare fraud case in Mississippi.
On the Fox Sports 1 talk show Skip and Shannon: Undisputed, Sharpe didn’t mince words, accusing Favre of “taking from the underserved” and “stealing from poor people in Mississippi.”
However, U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett ruled in favor of Sharpe, emphasizing that Sharpe’s comments were constitutionally protected rhetorical hyperbole. According to the judge, they couldn’t support a defamation claim as a matter of law. Sharpe had made it clear on the show that Favre hadn’t faced criminal charges, and more than a year later, there are still no criminal charges against the former quarterback.
Favre finds himself entangled in a Mississippi civil lawsuit seeking to recover misused Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds amounting to at least $77 million.
Eight people have been indicted in the case, with six pleading guilty. Favre had been paid $1.1 million in TANF funds for speeches he never delivered, eventually paying back the money but facing additional demands.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s athletic foundation also received $5 million in TANF funds, allegedly connected to Favre’s efforts to secure funding for a new volleyball facility.
Favre’s representative expressed disagreement with the court’s decision. Favre, despite not facing criminal charges, remains a defendant in the civil suit and has demanded a jury trial. His lawsuit against Mississippi Auditor Shad White is still pending.
In a courtroom battle that pitted NFL legends against each other, Brett Favre’s defamation lawsuit against Shannon Sharpe has been dealt a decisive blow. The judge’s ruling, based on constitutional protections, has left Favre reeling and Sharpe celebrating.