[Editor’s note: This item has been updated since it was initially posted.]
On August 30, 2013, former SMU Mustang Craig James was hired by Fox Sports Southwest as a college-football analyst. Two days later, after a single on-air appearance, former SMU Mustang Craig James was fired by Fox Sports Southwest.
The cited reason: When he was running for the U.S. Senate in 2012, the former SMU Mustang said during a debate — featuring former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Ted Cruz — that being gay is a choice, and that “right now in this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is going to be hard to stop if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades. I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade.” (Unlike, say, Tom Leppert, who did.) Said Fox Sports Southwest Senior Vice President of Communications Lou D’Ermilio about the network’s decision not to ride with the former SMU Mustang, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”
Two years after his firing, James has sued Fox Sports in Dallas for religious discrimination. That suit was filed Monday morning, and can be read below.
“Fox Sports fired Craig James because of his religious beliefs about marriage and his expression of those beliefs during a debate when James ran in the Texas Republican primary for United States Senator,” says the suit. It continues:
“Craig James is a man of faith and integrity, which calls him foremost to show love and kindness to all those around him, regardless of whether they share his beliefs. According to his faith, all people possess intrinsic value, and all people deserve love and respect—including the freedom not to be judged, penalized, or punished for their beliefs. James has personal friends, family members, and professional colleagues on both sides of marriage and family issues, some of whom are themselves gay, lesbian, and transgender. James respects others, including those who disagree with him, as he has throughout his career, and merely hopes for the same respect in turn.”
Scott Grogin, senior vice president of communications for Fox Networks Group , said late Monday in a statement sent to The Dallas Morning News that “as we have previously stated, Craig James is a polarizing figure in the college sports community and the decision not to use him in our college football coverage was based on the perception that he abused a previous on-air position to further a personal agenda. The decision had nothing to do with Mr. James’ religious beliefs and we did not discriminate against Mr. James in any way. The allegations are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them.”
James, who is being represented by the Plano-based Liberty Institute, maintains that what he said as a political candidate should have no bearing on his role as a football analyst. He also says that, look, he said that stuff about marriage in February 2012. If Fox Sports didn’t like it, they didn’t have to hire him more than a year later, only to fire him in a matter of days.
“This case is much bigger than me,” James says in a prepared statement. “It affects every person who holds religious beliefs. I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty. Today, many people have lost their jobs because of their faith. Sadly, countless are afraid to let their bosses know they even have a faith. This is America, and I intend to make sure Fox Sports knows they aren’t above the law.”
Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Institute President and CEO, said in a statement that “what Fox Sports has done to Craig James is inexcusable. It’s also illegal. No one should be fired from their job because of their faith. This is the ultimate intolerance.”