Brett Favre’s lawyers say a photo of Shannon Sharpe taken by a process server proves that Sharpe’s attorneys made false claims in a May 2023 court filing amid a legal battle between the two NFL legends, according to court documents obtained by Heavy.
Favre filed a lawsuit against Sharpe in February 2023 in Laurel County, Mississippi, court, accusing the Hall-of-Fame tight end of defamation.
Favre’s lawyers say Sharpe defamed the Hall-of-Fame quarterback by saying he “stole money from people that really needed money,” discussing a fraud scandal on the Fox Sports show “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed.” Favre has argued that Sharpe’s statements were false. The lawsuit was moved to the Southern District of Mississippi federal court in March.
In an effort to have the lawsuit thrown out, attorneys for the former Broncos and Ravens star argued that their client was not properly served with legal paperwork connected to the lawsuit. But Favre’s lawyers responded in a May 26, 2023, filing disputing that claim.
Favre settled a defamation lawsuit with another former NFL player turned media personality, Pat McAfee, writing on Twitter on May 11, 2023, “I’m happy that Pat McAfee and I have settled this litigation. Like Pat said, he was attempting to be funny and not commenting based on any personal knowledge. We’d both much rather talk about football.”
McAfee said on his show that same day, “As I have previously stated, I respect the hell out of Brett Favre the football player and his Hall of Fame career on the field, and I have no personal knowledge about any case involving Brett in Mississippi. I am pleased to report that based solely on me again clarifying these points now, with no settlement paid, Brett is withdrawing his suit against me.”
Favre is the target of a lawsuit filed by the state of Mississippi, which is seeking to recover some of the welfare money that state officials say was misspent, according to ESPN. Favre is not facing criminal charges, but eight others have been indicted in connection to a 2020 audit that found $77 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) were misused, ESPN reported. That civil case is ongoing, and Favre is seeking a jury trial, court records show.
Here’s what you need to know about the most recent developments in the legal battle between Favre and Sharpe:
Brett Favre’s Lawyers Say Shannon Sharpe Was Properly Served With Court Documents in the Lawsuit & That This Photo Proves It
According to the May 26 court filing by Favre’s lawyers, Sharpe’s attorneys filed a motion for an extension of time for them to file a reply in support of his motion to dismiss the case based on the “premise … that he was not properly served.”
Favre’s lawyers, Eric Herschmann, Daniel Benson, Jennifer McDougall, Daniel Koevary, Michael Shemper and James Robert “Bob” Sullivan Jr., wrote, “Plaintiff has since learned that that contention is false.”
Lawyers for the former Packers, Jets and Vikings QB included a photo of Sharpe opening what appears to be a door to his home wearing a white T-shirt and glasses and holding a phone, in the court filing.
They said the photo, a screen-grab from a video taken by a process server, along with an affidavit of service, “indisputably show that defendant was properly served.” Sharpe’s lawyers have not filed a response to the latest filing from Favre’s camp. Sharpe’s lawyers sought an extension of seven days to respond to Favre’s lawyers response to his motion to dismiss, court records show. They are currently required to respond by May 31.
Sharpe Has Filed a Motion to Dismiss the Lawsuit, With His Attorneys Saying ‘
On May 3, Sharpe’s lawyers, D. Michael Hurst Jr., James Shelson, Mark Fijman, Mary Ellen Roy and Joseph Terry, filed a 22-page motion to dismiss Favre’s lawsuit.
They wrote, “Favre does not dispute the disclosed factual basis for Sharpe’s commentary—a Mississippi Today news article explicitly cited on the cable television show. Nor can Favre deny that the State of Mississippi has sued him in a lawsuit to recoup misspent welfare funds, that he returned welfare money he received for services not performed, that he has been interviewed by the FBI, and that his alleged misconduct has been extensively set forth in many publicly available court documents and widely covered in news stories.”
The court filing adds, “Rather, Favre’s claim depends solely on the assertion that Sharpe defamed him by offering the opinion that Favre, by engaging in this widely-reported conduct, ‘stole’ or was ‘taking’ from the needy and underserved of Mississippi and was thus ‘a sorry mofo.’” Sharpe’s lawyers wrote:
But Sharpe’s opinions—commentary based on reported facts and couched in rhetorical hyperbole regarding an issue of public concern about a public figure—lie at the core of the protections afforded by the First Amendment and Mississippi law. Sharpe’s comments are not actionable, and the Complaint is irreparably defective on its face. Moreover, Favre failed to comply with Mississippi law concerning the filing of defamation claims.
They added, “Even the most careless viewer of the Broadcast would have recognized Sharpe’s statements as rhetorical hyperbole—robust language used to express Sharpe’s strong views about the new information that emerged about Favre’s participation in the welfare saga. As any reasonable viewer can tell from watching the Broadcast, Undisputed is a debate format sports entertainment talk show, and Sharpe’s comments are properly seen in that context as constitutionally-protected speech.”
Favre’s Lawyers Struck Back in an Effort to Keep the Lawsuit Going, Writing, ‘
On May 24, Favre’s lawyers filed their 32-page opposition to Sharpe’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
They wrote that, Sharpe’s “statements plainly are statements of purported fact, not opinion—no matter how many times Sharpe in his motion asserts otherwise. When it counted, when he made those statements, Sharpe never said he was merely expressing his opinion. Nor did Sharpe take the opportunity to make that clear when Favre, before bringing this lawsuit, asked Sharpe to correct his statements. He does so only now because he is trying to avoid accountability for his maliciously false and defamatory statements.”
They added, “Sharpe cannot escape accountability. His statements accusing Favre of crimes were
false, and Mississippi law has long empowered private citizens to defend their ‘good name.’”
Favre’s lawyers wrote, “Favre’s allegations concerning Sharpe’s statements unquestionably state a plausible defamation claim, and Sharpe does not argue otherwise. Instead, he claims that his malicious and false statements are not actionable because they were rhetorical hyperbole, opinion based on a disclosed factual premise, and a report on an official proceeding. Sharpe is wrong on all counts.”
The case has been assigned to District Judge Keith Starrett, who will issue a ruling on whether Favre’s case against Sharpe can proceed.
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