By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com March 10 2014 9:37 PM ET
While the Fox News Channel regularly gives airtime to people with antigay views, some other realms of the Fox media empire apparently frown on such opinions, at least according to a sportscaster who’s making a discrimination claim.
Craig James, a former pro football player and ESPN commentator, was hired last fall by Fox Sports Southwest as a college football analyst and let go just days later, before he had signed a contract. While running in the 2012 Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas (eventually won by Ted Cruz), James said in a debate that being gay is a choice and that gay people “are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.” He and Cruz also criticized another candidate, Tom Leppert, for having marched in Dallas’s LGBT pride parade when he was mayor of the city.
In February, James filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission alleging Fox Sports Southwest had discriminated against him because of his religious beliefs, and last week the commission issued a formal discrimination charge against the company and announced it will conduct an investigation into the matter, the New York Daily News reports.
When James was let go, a Fox spokesman told The Dallas Morning News, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.” In a legal deposition, however, Fox Sports president Eric Shanks said James was not fired for his political or religious beliefs, according to the Liberty Institute, a conservative legal group representing James.
“Either Fox Sports is lying, and really did violate Mr. James’ rights by firing him solely because of his legally protected religious viewpoint,” Liberty Institute lawyer Hiram Sasser said in a press release, “or they were lying last September when they fired him, and allowed one of their top PR executives to mislead the media, defame Mr. James, and slur the millions of Americans who share his beliefs and implying they could not work at Fox.”