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Public image official for scandal-plagued Baylor football arrested for journalist attack

Heath Nielsen

Jail photo via KWTX-TV

WACO, Texas – The director of public image for the scandal-plagued Baylor University football program was arrested for attacking a journalist.

CBS Waco affiliate KWTX-TV reports Heath Nielsen, 47, is free on bond following his arrest earlier this month on a misdemeanor assault warrant stemming from an attack on Nov. 5 in which a sportswriter was grabbed by the throat and pushed away from a player after the Bears’ 62-22 loss to TCU.

Nielsen was booked into the McLennan County Jail on Nov. 8, charged with assault with bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor.

Baylor has not offered public comment, but KWTX reports Nielsen has been conspicuously absent for the past several weeks.

Nielsen is in his 17th year at Baylor, works directly with the football program “and is responsible for management of the public image of the program.”

That public image has taken a major hit when a federal lawsuit filed against Baylor University in June accused the nation’s largest Baptist school of creating a “hunting ground for sexual predators.” It later came to light that officials apparently covered for players accused of rape, and that the scandal was far worse than originally disclosed by the university. Additionally, despite allegations that former football coach Art Biles knew of a gang rape involving a player, fans, other coaches, players and alumni rallied to support him after he was fired.

The incident with Nielsen involved reporter James McBride, who writes for The Blaze News, a community newspaper in Keller, Texas. 

An arrest warrant affidavit states that while McBride was photographing a player with their permission, “Nielsen walked up to McBride on the right, grabbed McBride by the throat with his right hand, squeezed and pushed him away from the football player.”

When McBride and the player asked Nielsen what the problem was, he replied, “He’s abusing his privileges,” the affidavit said.

“I was leaning back to take the photo. I heard somebody who I didn’t know at this point in time yell from my right-hand side, saying ‘no interviews on the field,’” McBride told KWTX said.

“About that time they came in and tomahawk-chopped, trying to knock the phone that I had taken the picture with out of my hand. They were unsuccessful in trying to do that, and when they couldn’t do that they came up and they grabbed my throat, and I pulled back. Whenever I looked up, I saw that it was Heath Nielsen,” he said.

Right after the incident, McBride said, Nielsen allegedly told him, “You’ll never f****** work in this business again. You’re abusing your privileges on the field.”

A spokesperson for the newspaper said stadium cameras recorded the incident. McBride said he hasn’t decided what to do about the incident, except that he believes Nielsen should lose his job.