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FOX SPORTS FIRES BROADCASTER CRAIG JAMES FOR EXPRESSING HIS RELIGIOUS BELIEFS ABOUT MARRIAGE

At Issue: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
Case Status: Ongoing

 

Summary

On August 3, 2015, Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against Fox Sports on behalf of Craig James, a former NFL player and sports broadcaster. In September 2013, Fox Sports fired James from his on-air position as a college football analyst. Fox Sports terminated James, an evangelical Christian, because of his religious views on marriage and civil unions, which he expressed over a year prior to his hiring. The lawsuit asserts that Fox Sports engaged in religious discrimination against James, violating Texas employment law.

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Meet Craig James

Texas native Craig James grew up on the gridiron. After a stellar high school career with the Houston Stratford High Spartans, James attended college at Southern Methodist University, where he and fellow running back Eric Dickerson became the legendary “Pony Express.” After graduation, James played for the Washington Federals of the USFL and then the New England Patriots in the NFL. He was a starting running back for the Patriots, playing in the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XX, until he retired from the NFL in 1989.

From 1989 to 2011, James was a radio and television sports commentator for SMU, CBS, ESPN, and ABC. He took a hiatus from broadcasting in 2011 to run for United States Senate. In February 2012, during his campaign, James engaged in a debate with then-attorney Ted Cruz and Tom Leppert over Leppert’s participation in a gay-pride parade.  During the debate, an audience member asked James about his stance on the issues, including same-sex unions and benefits, and James responded by citing his biblical beliefs. After James’ campaign ended, he returned to his career as a sports broadcaster.

 

James’ Hiring and Firing by Fox Sports

On August 30, 2013, Fox Sports Southwest announced that they hired James as an on-air analyst for Fox College Saturday college football. When announcing the hiring of James, Executive Producer Mike Anastassiou said, “We’re excited to add Craig to the FOX Sports Southwest team.” Anastassiou added, “He’s a talented broadcaster who I’ve admired throughout his career. His knowledge of college football and the experience he brings as an analyst will be a tremendous asset to our coverage.”

On August 31, James appeared on air with Fox. Only one day later, on September 1, Fox Sports Southwest General Manager Jon Heidtke informed James that Fox Sports fired James because of his religious beliefs about marriage and his expression of those beliefs during the Senate debate.

Fox Sports announced that it terminated James because of his religious views on marriage. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News about James’ termination, Fox Sports Southwest Senior Vice President of Communications Lou D’Ermilio said, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”

 

Legal Action Against Fox 

In February 2014, Liberty Institute filed a formal complaint against Fox Sports Southwest with the Texas Workforce Commission, asserting that Fox had engaged in religious discrimination against James. In March 2014, the Texas Workforce Commission issued a Charge of Discrimination against Fox Sports Southwest.

 

What Happens Next

On August 3, 2015, Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against Fox Sports. The lawsuit alleges that Fox Sports fired James for one reason only – his religious beliefs about marriage.  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 lawsuit also notes that James has a strong history of being the consummate on-air professional, with an impeccable record as a fair and open-minded journalist. His career has been marked by tolerance and respect, leading him to excel in working with people from diverse backgrounds in a wide array of corporate environments, ranging from NFL locker rooms to ESPN studios.

In a statement to Breitbart News in September 2013, James said, “I was shocked that my personal religious beliefs were not only the reason for Fox Sports firing me but I was completely floored when I read stories quoting Fox Sports representatives essentially saying that people of faith are banned from working at Fox Sports,” James told Breitbart News. “That is not right and surely someone made a terrible mistake.”

On August 3, James said, “This case is much bigger than me. 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.”

Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute General Counsel, says, “With twenty-four years of experience as a sports broadcaster, Craig James was eminently qualified for his job at Fox Sports. He wasn’t fired over his performance – he was fired because he talked about his faith outside the workplace even before he was hired. By firing James, Fox is essentially putting all of its employees on notice, telling them that if they talk about their faith at any time, they can be fired. That is the very definition of unlawful religious discrimination. It’s the ultimate intolerance and we will not stand by and allow Fox’s actions to go unpunished.”

 

Media Coverage of James’s Football and Broadcast Career

 

Media Coverage of James’s Termination and Lawsuit Against Fox Sports

 

Legal Documents