Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt told officials at Santa Fe High School that he will pay funeral costs for the victims of Friday’s mass shooting, according to multiple reports.
A 17-year-old student killed 10 people, mostly students, in Friday’s shooting about 30 miles outside Houston, before surrendering to officers, officials said. Ten more were wounded.
Watt, among the most prominent professional athletes in Houston, tweeted a two-word response to the carnage: “Absolutely horrific.” But his response went beyond a tweet, with reports late Friday that he would pay for the victims’ funerals. The team confirmed Watt’s intention, according to ESPN and other outlets.
The Texans also released a statement after Friday’s shooting, offering “our thoughts and heartfelt condolences to the victims, their families and all those affected.”
Other Houston athletes also weighed in on the tragedy, in what’s become a numbingly familiar routine.
“We need to do better by our children,” wrote Rockets star guard Chris Paul, who told reporters that his team’s NBA playoff series against the Golden State Warriors “is minor compared to what is taking place down in Santa Fe.” The family of Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta released a statement, which read in part, “There are no words that we can say that will take the sadness of this day away or provide any deeper understanding for this senseless tragedy. These children and the teacher that were lost, their families and the entire Santa Fe Community will remain heavy on our hearts and deep within our prayers today and in the days ahead.” Guard Eric Gordon called it “a horrible act of violence.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has been outspoken in his calls for gun control, tweeted Friday that “gun owners have a responsibility to store their firearms securely. The two guns used in Friday’s shooting belong to the gunman’s father, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Astros held a moment of silence before Friday night’s game and flew the Texas state flags at half-staff, while Astros manager A.J. Hinch offered an impassioned speech on the issue of school shootings, telling reporters he “doesn’t want to offer any more condolences” and that the rash of violence “makes me angry.”
“Lives are being lost for no real, good reason,” Hinch said Friday, via the Houston Chronicle. “There’s never a good reason. My anger is because I have kids and I can appreciate how terrible everyone has to feel. . . . I don’t have the words. I’m here in front of a bunch of cameras trying to make people feel better when I don’t think the situation should ever happen. There’s no reason for our schools to be combat zones. And it’s turning that way.”
Watt’s gesture, meanwhile, comes several months after he was named the NFL’s 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year, the league’s top community service honor. He had launched a campaign to raise $200,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief last summer, which turned viral and eventually raised more than $37 million in three weeks.
“This award is about the inherent good that lies within humanity,” Watt said in February, when he accepted the award. “It’s about the city of Houston and its ability to overcome adversity at a time when it all seemed lost. It is about the hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country and all over the world who donated to a city they may have never been to, to people that they may never meet. But they donated simply because they saw their fellow humans going through a difficult time and they wanted to help out.”
Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who contributed $1 million to Watt’s Harvey campaign on behalf of Walmart, thanked the defensive end “for going above and beyond for the families of Santa Fe, Texas. I love you,” she wrote.