College football analyst Craig James filed suit against Fox Sports in a Dallas court this morning contending religious discrimination for his 2013 termination over his stance on gay marriage.
“Fox Sports fired James for one reason only: his religious beliefs about marriage,” the 35-page suit charges. “In so doing, Fox Sports violated the law. Specifically, Fox Sports violated the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (‘TCHRA’) and Texas contract law along with a myriad of equitable principles.”
The suit filed in Texas district court lists numerous defendants, including Fox Sports President Eric Shanks and Fox Network Groups President Randy Freer. The text of the litigation, along with the accompanying exhibits, proves at least the corporate sensitivity of the case in the numerous redacted sections therein.
The personality redacted from its airwaves by the network expressed deep concern that a corporate entity could fire someone for voicing an opinion shared by three-fourths of the voters of his state in a plebiscite on gay marriage.
“This is very troubling as an employee when your boss holds against you something you said about your belief system nearly eighteen months before you were recruited and hired,” James told Breitbart Sports in an exclusive interview. “I said nothing about my belief system on the air at Fox Sports. So, the fact that they reached back in my past nearly eighteen months and responded to a comment about my biblical belief in natural marriage as a candidate—that’s troubling.”
Fox Sports hired the former SMU and New England Patriots running back after his unsuccessful bid for one of Texas’ U.S. Senate seats in 2012 in which the candidate responded to a question about gay marriage by stating, “I’m a guy that believes in a man and a woman,” and urging Christians to “stand up” on the issue. During the discussion of gay marriage, James asserted: “God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions.”
On the last day of August the following year, James analyzed his first college football games for the network. On the first day of September, Fox Sports fired him.
“‘We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,’ a Fox spokesman told the Dallas Morning News. “‘He couldn’t say those things here.’”
But James counters he didn’t say “those things” at Fox Sports but rather in the context of a political campaign over a year before he joined the network. He also points out that he hired an openly-gay man as a senior campaign consultant and worked without incident with people of diverse backgrounds during his football and broadcasting careers.
“James never discussed his beliefs about marriage or religion in general on the job,” the suit notes. “Nevertheless, Fox Sports informed James that Fox Sports fired him due to his beliefs about marriage, which were explicitly religious.”
Such boasting about the non-job-related reasons for the termination, coupled with state regulations forbidding discrimination on religious grounds (both James and former employer Fox Sports Southwest call North Texas home), allow for a clear-cut case, James and his lawyers believe.
“It makes the case very straightforward,” Hiram Sasser, a Liberty Institute attorney working on the case, tells Breitbart Sports. “They admitted their reason. They were very proud of that reason.”
James claims that despite briefly providing on-air analysis for Fox Sports the network never even paid him for that. He seeks that money, back pay with interest, damages of $100,000 or more, and attorneys’ fees, among other types of remuneration.
James served as a mainstay of college football broadcasts for two decades on ESPN/ABC, CBS, and other outlets but he remains sidelined in the wake of Fox Sports’s abrupt firing of him within a month of his hiring.
“I have tried to place some phone calls to friends in the broadcast industry,” James told Breitbart Sports. “Because of Fox’s actions, my agent said I was ‘radioactive’—not a lot of people ringing my phone off the wall.”