Fox Sports Southwest: Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
In September 2013, Fox Sports Southwest fired college football analyst Craig James after just one day on the job. The retired Pro-Bowler had made personal comments in support of biblical marriage and sexuality, not from the Fox Sports desk, but during the previous year's unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination in the Texas Senate race. In the course of the campaign, Craig was asked—as most candidates are—about his views on marriage and sexuality. Craig noted that he did not understand homosexuality to be an inborn trait, a stance still supported by research. As an orthodox Christian, James did not shy away from the eternal consequences of this sin or any other. "[T]hey are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions," he said before pledging not to support same-sex unions.
According to Sports Illustrated, the regional affiliate of Fox hired Craig without involving upper management. "Fox Sports executives were not happy with the hire by the regional network," sources explained. High level executives felt he hadn't been properly vetted (or, properly excluded, depending on how you look at it). When the news broke, a Fox Sports spokesman tried to explain away the network's religious profiling. "We just asked ourselves how Craig's statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn't say those things here."
However, Craig hadn't said "those things" (anything about sexuality or marriage) from behind a Fox Sports microphone or anywhere in his commentating capacity. He had stated his position as a candidate for public office—in response to legitimate constituent questions. In fact, James articulated a position on marriage held at the time by approximately half of the American public polled at the time.
In an exclusive with Breitbart News, the former broadcaster indicated surprise that his views on marriage—which he never once expressed on air—would disqualify him from breaking down football plays—or any other job. "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 went on, "I have worked in broadcasting for 24 years and have always treated my colleagues with respect and dignity regardless of their background or personal beliefs. I believe it is essential in our business to maintain professional relationships with people from a diverse background and have tolerance for those of different beliefs. I have never discussed my faith while broadcasting, and it has never been an issue until now."
Liberty Institute attorneys representing Craig James fired off a letter to the network outlining the potential religious harassment lawsuit that awaited if Fox Sports didn't reinstate the popular football commentator. "Craig James believes that he, as a Christian, is called to love everyone regardless of their sexual orientation. [He] simply wants to receive the same tolerance for his religious beliefs that he himself practices toward others."
James and his lawyers submitted a formal complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and, in March 2014, TWC issued a formal Charge of Discrimination against Fox Sports Southwest for terminating James' on-air position.
After the Commission announced its next move, Fox Sports Southwest took a decidedly more defiant approach. It had softened its tone after the initial firing scandal, but a spokesman insisted in the wake of the new developments that "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."
As harrowing as his experience was James and his wife decided to turn the adversity into an opportunity. In April 2014, he accepted a job at Family Research Council. In an April 8, 2014 release, James made the following comment: "After I was fired by Fox Sports, I was deeply moved and emboldened by the countless number of people and organizations like FRC that came to my side. Now it's my turn to offer encouragement to others encountering the same kind of religious bigotry. While the challenges to our freedoms are great, I strongly believe the game is far from over."
Calling it a "great fit," he explained to reporters that he's honored "to join the country's premier Christian public policy organization. I have a passion for FRC's mission of faith, family, and freedom." As for his old profession, "I'm not going to give up following sports," he said. "It's in my DNA." But for now, he can help call the plays in a new defense—of our liberty.
Photo: © Family Research Council