DALLAS (CN) – Fox Sports illegally fired broadcaster Craig James because of statements he made about gay people due to his religious beliefs during his failed 2012 run for U.S. Senate, he claims in court.
James, of Celina, sued Fox Sports, about 20 of its affiliates and six people on Monday in Dallas County Court.
He was fired two days after he was hired, in September 2013, due to statements he made in a 2012 Republican primary debate, including, “Being gay is a choice.”
“Right now in this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is going to be hard to stop if we do not stand up with leaders who do not go ride in gay parades,” James said. “I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade.”
After it fired him, Fox Sports said, “He couldn’t say those things” there. “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,” Fox said at the time.
James had quit his position at ABC and ESPN to run for the Senate seat won by Ted Cruz. He was a star running back at Southern Methodist University in the 1980s and played for the New England Patriots for four years.
In his 35-page lawsuit, James claims his religious beliefs would have no impact on his work as a sportscaster.
“James never discussed his beliefs about marriage or religion in general on the job,” the complaint states. “Nevertheless, Fox Sports informed James that Fox Sports fired him due to his beliefs about marriage, which were explicitly religious.”
James says he “may not approve of same-sex marriage, but he believes in showing love to each person” no matter their circumstances. He accuses Fox of circulating an article about him that “stereotypes” his Christian beliefs, assuming he “must be motivated by antipathy.”
“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,” the complaint states. “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.”
Fox’s attorney, Vanessa Griffith with Vinson Elkins in Dallas, could not be reached for comment Monday. Fox Networks Group senior vice president Scott Grogin called the allegations “baseless.”
“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,” Grogin told The Dallas Morning News. “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 told Breitbart Sports on Monday that it is “very troubling as an employee when your boss holds against you something you said about your belief system nearly 18 months before you were” hired.
“I said nothing about my belief system on the air at Fox Sports,” James said. “So the fact that they reached back in my past nearly 18 months and responded to a comment about my biblical belief in natural marriage as a candidate – that’s troubling.”
James seeks punitive damages for employment discrimination and breach of contract. He is represented by Kelly J. Shackelford with the Liberty Institute in Plano.
- NSA Ordered to Look Harder for Records
- Idaho’s Ag-Gag Law Ruled Unconstitutional