Abby Wambach, an American soccer legend with the women's national team, said she has cut all ties and "fully" divested herself from the concussion drug company backed by Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre. The company, Odyssey Health, is at the center of a Mississippi welfare fraud case that has ties to Favre.
Wambach was on the sports advisory board for the company, which is working with Prevacus in developing a nasal spray designed to treat concussions. Its top investor is Favre and the company accepted $2.1 million in funds that were supposed to be directed to welfare recipients, according to a lawsuit filed by the state of Mississippi.
Arrests were first made in the fraud case in February 2020. Odyssey announced it had acquired the concussion drug from Prevacus exactly one year later and they signed an agreement on a joint venture.
Wambach, a World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, said she became aware of "disturbing information" on Thursday after being contacted by news outlets and had asked Odyssey to complete the divestment by the end of the day.
Wambach exits concussion company linked to Favre
ESPN and NBC News each reached out to Wambach about her ties to Odyssey Health on Thursday. Hours later, she told each via written communication that she was working to divest her interest and have it "be complete by the end of day today."
"This morning, I was dismayed to learn disturbing information about a company I had backed as part of my deeply personal effort to lessen the impact of concussion-related injuries,” she said in a statement to NBC News.
In a statement to ESPN, she said:
"Minutes after learning this new information, I initiated the process to immediately and fully divest myself from any involvement — financial and otherwise — with Prevacus/Odyssey Health Inc., a process that I insisted be complete by end of day today."
Wambach did not go into further detail about what new information she had learned and further comment on her role and financial stake to ESPN.
"Since I genuinely believed this company was being transparent about a product that could spare the next generation of athletes from the severe impact of concussion injuries that I endured as a professional athlete, I am profoundly angry, disappointed, and saddened by what I learned today," Wambach said in a statement. "Notwithstanding these jarring developments, I will stay true to my mission of securing better, more equitable treatment of our athletes in every area of sport.”
Wambach is one of the many USWNT stars who are working to close the gender gap in sports concussion research and bring greater awareness to head safety in soccer. She is one of the most prolific headers in the game and knocked in the "header heard 'round the world" in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals.
In 2016, she said she would donate her brain to researchers after her death so they could study it for head trauma. She further discussed the decision on the "TODAY" show in 2018 alongside Favre, former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner and former MLB catcher David Ross. Prevacus founder Dr. Jacob VanLandingham was also there.
Warner, Ross, former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci are all listed as members of the sports advisory board for Odyssey Health. ESPN said none could be reached for comment. Wambach, who joined in 2018 when Favre was the largest outside investor, is no longer listed on the website. Odyssey also has a Scientific Advisory Board and Military Advisory Board.
Favre's involvement in Mississippi welfare scandal
Favre is under a close public eye after nearly $8.1 million in Mississippi state welfare funds were allegedly given to entities tied to him. The totals consist of $1.1 million directly to Favre for public speaking appearances he allegedly didn't make, $5 million to constructing a volleyball building at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi, and $2 million to Odyssey Health.
The lawsuit claims he urged VanLandingham to press Nancy New, owner of a state nonprofit, in December 2018 to use funds from the Department of Human Services to invest in Prevacus. There was a meeting in January 2019 and over the next 10 months a total of $2.1 million was sent to Prevacus for "the purpose of securing 'clinical trial sites' to be located within Mississippi," per the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the money was instead used to purchase stock for individuals.
Favre was questioned by the FBI, his lawyer Bud Holmes confirmed to NBC News a month ago. Holmes said Favre did nothing wrong. The former NFL star has not been charged.
Two weeks ago, text messages were released that allegedly highlight Favre was much more involved than he had said. They show Favre allegedly seeking reassurances from nonprofit executives that the public would never find out he was seeking millions in grants that were appropriated for lower income individuals in Mississippi, the poorest state in the country.
The case is far larger than Favre, who paid back the $1.1 million for the speaking engagements but has reportedly not paid the interest he still owes.