Craig James taking Fox Sports to court

PLANO, Texas (BP) -- Former Fox Sports broadcaster Craig James is pursuing legal action against the network, contending that his Sept. 2 termination stems from his religious beliefs.

"We're not going to allow Fox to rewrite history," James told Baptist Press. Fox, like other companies often do after a misstep, is trying "to retrace and rewrite history, create smokescreens and distractions to take away from what the real truth is."

James was hired by Fox Sports Southwest on Aug. 30 as an on-air college football analyst for the network's postgame show, and a press release from the company praised his "knowledge of college football and the experience he brings as an analyst."

James worked one game for Fox Sports Southwest on Aug. 31 before he was notified of his termination on Sept. 2 -- which he says was based on his support for traditional marriage. James was a Republican candidate in the 2011 Senate race in Texas, ultimately won by Ted Cruz. During the campaign, James was clear about his views that marriage was designed by God for one man and one woman.

The Dallas Morning News reported on Craig's firing and included a statement from an unnamed Fox spokesman: "We just asked ourselves how Craig's statements would play in our human resources department," the spokesman said. "He couldn't say those things here."

A statement released by Fox after James' firing, however, contradicts the reason given by the unnamed spokesman in the Dallas Morning News story.

"At Fox Sports we respect all points of view, and despite reports to the contrary, the decision to no longer use Craig James in our college football coverage was simply because he was not a good fit for Fox Sports," the statement said. "Mr. James, while both experienced and knowledgeable, is a polarizing figure in the college sports community. Regrettably, the decision to use him was not properly vetted, and as a result he will no longer provide commentary on Fox Sports Southwest's college football coverage."

James retained Liberty Institute of Plano, Texas, as legal counsel. In a Sept. 24 letter to Fox Sports executives, Liberty Institute's Jeffrey Mateer demanded James' reinstatement and threatened legal action if Fox didn't comply.

So far, Mateer said they haven't heard from the network. He has filed a request in state court in Collin County, Texas, to take pre-lawsuit depositions and seek discovery, and a hearing on that request is set for Nov. 5.

Fox Sports officials did not reply to emails from Baptist Press seeking comment.

"We'd like to hear their response," Mateer said. "They're the folks who, the day after Craig was terminated, told the Dallas Morning News why they did it, and they can't now change that. If they want to change it, it's real easy -- put him back on the air. Reinstate him."

James said he remains resolute.

"I'm going to stand firm and bold with Liberty Institute to not let this thing just be swept under the rug and that another occurrence of a punishment of someone with a biblical belief takes place," James said. "All of a sudden we have a number of these things that end up under the rug, and we have a mound that turns into policy. We can't let this happen."

A member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, since 1983, James said pastor Jack Graham and the church have been supportive of him.

"The chilling effect of this, if it goes unchallenged and not met with force, will be that many people say, 'Man, I'm not going to stick my neck out there' or 'I'm not going to let my employer or neighbor or someone else find out my beliefs, because I don't want it to be held against me one day for a job I might be trying to get,'" James said.


Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports (www.bpsports.net), the sports website of Baptist Press. He also is director of media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.