Heim Barbecue is wading into sports controversy again, this time over the Baylor University sexual assault scandals.
But the same restaurant that upset Canadian baseball fans by offering a brawling Texas Rangers player “barbecue for life” is turning its newest controversy into a charitable cause.
In a social media post, Travis Heim responded to a Baylor fan’s tweet. The Baylor fan had asked Bears backers to “permanently boycott” the West Magnolia Avenue restaurant over Heim’s criticism of Baylor’s handling of athletes’ attacks that have drawn more than a dozen lawsuits.
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Heim wrote on Twitter Feb. 2 that the NCAA should investigate and punish the Baylor football program: “There’s no excuse.”
An obscure Baylor fan account using the name “1Gold_Mind” complained Wednesday about Heim Barbecue’s “official stance” and calling for the Bears boycott.
“Sexual assault shouldn’t be trivialized,” Heim responded in an online post.
“People can be absurdly passionate about sports, colleges, even barbecue, but we should ALL stand on the side of the victims of these heinous crimes.”
As barbecue customers rallied in support on social media and offered to dine there more often and make up for lost Baylor customers, Heim suggested they instead donate $20 each to the Fort Worth-based Women’s Center of Tarrant County, a women’s and family social services agency.
As of Monday, the Women’s Center had received 14 donations totaling more than $700, according to a social media post.
“Obviously, we’re big TCU fans, but this issue is more important than any school affiliation,” Travis Heim responded Thursday in an online message.
“ … My thought today was, if we could direct any of this attention toward a great local charity, that would be the best ending to the story. We may lose some business from diehard Baylor fans but I’m not worried about that. … No matter our favorite team, we can see any sort of allegations like this and all push for justice for the victims.”
Baylor officials confirmed last month that NCAA officials are investgating the university’s role in a sexual assault scandal that led to the firing of football Coach Art Briles.
Lawsuits allege 52 attacks involving 15 victims, including gang rapes by 31 football players, and a “culture of violence” on the football team.
On opening day at the Fort Worth restaurant, fans of the one-time food trailer showed up as early 3:15 a.m. to be first in line and others drove several hours from Austin. (Video by Rick Press)
The social-media run-in is not Heim Barbecue’s first scrape with sports fans.
In May 2016, the Heims said they received death threats after offering the Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor “barbecue for life” in thanks for slugging the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. They turned it into a “Rougned Eats Free” T-shirt celebrating the punch, and landed coverage in The Washington Post.
Heim Barbecue, listed among Texas Monthly’s Top 50 barbecue restaurants in Texas, opened two years ago as an East Hattie Street food truck. It moved last summer to a full-scale restaurant at 1109 W. Magnolia Ave.
Emma and Travis Heim have announced plans to open a second restaurant at 5333 White Settlement Road.