The grandparents of Astroworld’s youngest victim are criticizing a major component of Travis Scott’s newly unveiled “Project HEAL,” calling it a publicity play that they believe violates the gag order placed on the mountain of lawsuits filed over the deadly tragedy.
Tericia Blount, whose 9-year-old grandson Ezra Blount died from injuries suffered in the Astroworld crowd control disaster, says she was left cold when she heard that Scott’s new $5 million philanthropic and safety initiative includes funding for the U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Event Safety and a “tech-driven solution” to address safety challenges at large-scale events.
“It’s a PR stunt. He’s pretty much trying to sway the jurors before they’re even assembled,” the Texas grandmother tells Rolling Stone. “He’s trying to make himself look good, but it doesn’t look that way to someone with our eyes. What we’re seeing is that he’s done wrong, and now he’s trying to be the good guy and trying to give his own verdict on safety.”
Tericia and her husband Bernon Blount are not parties to the lawsuit that Ezra’s dad, Treston Blount, filed. Treston’s son — who was a Scott fan largely due to the rapper’s collaboration with the video game Fortnite — became one of the 10 people to die from compression asphyxia during the crowd surge at Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston last November.
Robert Hilliard, the lead lawyer for Treston Blount, wrote in a court filing Wednesday that Scott’s Tuesday announcement of Project HEAL may have violated the gag order in the case. He said it appeared “designed to gain goodwill and prejudice Blount and the other plaintiffs’ ability to obtain a fair trial in this case.”
“Blount and the other plaintiffs herein do not have the high profile ability to sway public opinion as defendant Scott — an international music star — and his sophisticated media team do,” his emergency motion reads. Hilliard is asking a Texas judge to “immediately clarify” whether the gag order applies “equally to lawyers and parties.”
Presiding Judge Kristen Hawkins with the 11th District Court of Harris County signed the gag order Feb. 15, “restricting” lawyers from making public comments that involve topics such as the “character” of potential witnesses or information that likely would be “inadmissible as evidence in a trial.”
The judge did not immediately rule on Hilliard’s emergency motion. A spokesperson for Scott called it “shameful and beyond cynical” that Hilliard “would accuse Mr. Scott of violating a court order when he has done nothing of the kind.”
“It is also disappointing that Mr. Hilliard would attack Project HEAL, a series of philanthropic gestures designed to give students and young people a leg up. Project HEAL is a continuation of Travis Scott’s longstanding work, including academic scholarships and creative design programs for underprivileged students,” the statement from Stephanie Rawlings Blake says.
“Mr. Hilliard’s outburst holds no merit and is just a publicity stunt when the court expressly prohibited the very same actions that Mr. Hillaird has engaged in,” the spokesperson counters.
“Over the past few months I’ve been taking the time and space to grieve, reflect and do my part to heal my community,” Scott wrote in an Instagram post announcing Project HEAL on Tuesday. “Most importantly, I want to use my resources and platform moving forward towards actionable change. This will be a lifelong journey for me and my family. While it’s easy for corporations and institutions to stay in the shadows, I feel as a leader in my community, I need to step up in times of need. My team and I created Project HEAL to take much needed action towards supporting real solutions that make all events the safest spaces they can possibly be. I will always honor the victims of the Astroworld tragedy who remain in my heart forever.”
Ezra’s grandfather Bernon Blount said Wednesday that he also had a problem with Scott’s announcement: “Every time he does something like this, it’s an ongoing reminder.”