Dick Vitale, it’s quite safe to say, has never had a problem with wearing his heart on his sleeve. Usually, this kind-hearted boisterousness comes through in his college basketball analysis; even if it’s “Dickie V’ed” up a bit (a lot), there’s always the understanding that he actually believes the words coming out of his mouth.
But this is a new one, as near as we can tell. There was a sad story out of Bradenton, Florida, where Bayshore High School student and cheerleader Jazmine Thompson was shot and killed. The shooting took place after a young man opened fire on a car Thompson was riding in; Thompson, 18, had planned to attend college and become an attorney.
Vitale, a resident of nearby Lakewood Ranch, heard about the story and, despite having no personal connection to the family, has made arrangements to help pay for Thompson’s funeral.
From the TAMPA TRIBUNE:
ESPN commentator Dick Vitale spoke this morning with Raechelle James, the mother of Jazmine Thompson, the Bayshore High School cheerleader who was fatally shot Friday night.
Vitale said he has made arrangements with the family to help with funeral expenses. James recently lost her job and does not have insurance.
Daniel Floyd Williams, 18, has been charged with second-degree murder. After Bayshore’s football game Friday, Thompson and three other girls were in a car when Williams approached them, asked for sex, walked away, waved a gun and fired, hitting Thompson, deputies said.
“I didn’t know Jazmine. I just know what I read, and it tears my heart out,” Vitale said. “There’s no way there should be a funeral for that young girl this weekend. She did nothing wrong. She was minding her own business.”
And there’s the vintage Vitale, reacting to an injustice with the trademark passion and fervor that befits a good man. Granted, it takes little more than a microphone and an opinion to do so on television, but here he steps up without flinching.
You may notice the headline features a plural, while we’ve only mentioned Jazmine as a victim. That’s because about a month ago, a recent Bayshore High graduate, Dejuan Williams, was gunned down - this time while protecting his sister from intruders in his house.
Those two incidents have prompted Vitale to not only help James with her daughter’s funeral, but inquire about setting up a scholarship in Thompson’s and Williams’ names. There’s no specifics yet, of course; this story is, as they say, developing.
But regardless, even if “just” it’s a recurring payment of $1000, that’s still a magnanimous gesture from a man who, again, had zero to do with the victims other than living in somewhat near proximity. Cheers to you, Mr. Vitale, and may the needless gun deaths soon cease to exist.