If Brett Favre was Jerry Rice, he’d be in jail right now. If Ted DiBiase, professional wrestling’s “Million Dollar Man” was instead Sylvester Ritter, who we knew as “The Junkyard Dog”, we would have already seen him behind bars too.
Now, I’m not saying that state auditor Shad White isn’t doing his job. Since he’s gotten into office, he’s dissected the finances of several state entities and found millions in misappropriated funds. He demanded the Family Resource Center of Tupelo repay almost $16 million in misspent federal grant money. He’s investigating $1.8 million mismanaged by the Hinds County Election Commission as well.
Last year, White discovered that millions of dollars from the Mississippi Department of Human Services were misspent, converted to personal use, and spent on family members and friends. An audit of DHS showed that money – that was meant for the state’s Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) – was funneled through grantees . The activity continued even after the investigation was announced. At the heart of the impropriety are the aforementioned NFL and t WWE Hall of Famers, respectably. Favre received over a million dollars in TANF funds for speaking engagements that he didn’t show up for. While DiBiase, and two of his sons, funneled millions into their non-profits, The youngest and least famous of the family, Brett, has seemingly taken the fall, having plead guilty last December to making fraudulent statements to the government. He’s gotten a deferred sentence.
In the meantime, the elder DiBiase spent this past summer making several appearances on WWE TV reprising his Million Dollar Man persona. While in the midst of owing Mississippi a lot of money, DiBiase showed up on TV riding in limousines and flaunting wealth. Character or not, I don’t think that’s the best look for an alleged embezzler, is it? Likewise, It took Favre a year to repay some of the money he owed. He paid $600,000 to the auditor’s office last month. He still owes $228,000. White says legal action may follow if the interest isn’t paid. The two even sparred publicly on Twitter recently. I got a kick out of seeing a Mississippi football legend and an unassuming numbers guy go back and forth via tweets. White, I must say, didn’t back down.
But to make my original point, even with White aggressively going after those taking advantage of public funds meant for our needy, neither Favre nor DiBiase have had to take that “perp walk”. Mississippi has a sordid history of unbalanced justice. Black folk have been arrested, jailed, and sentenced for crimes that white counterparts only got a slap on the wrist for. We’ve seen folks, who’ve misappropriated much smaller sums of money, arrested and sentenced. The wheels of justice apparently turn a lot slower when you’re adored like Favre and DiBiase. There were no cuffs, no mugshots, and no shame. And if you read any of the tweets, there’s still plenty of support for the two, especially from the crowd who’s always accusing Black folk of “living off the government”. There’s a lot more tolerance when you have a couple Super Bowl rings or a diamond-studded wrestling championship belt.
I shudder to think what would happen if this was “All World” Jerry Rice or JYD. If our state’s history serves me, we’d be screaming “Free Jerry” or if he was still with us, “Free JYD”. Because here, even if it’s justice, you still can’t be sure it’s fair.