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Officials for Fox Sports, whose vice president earlier said one-time football analyst Craig James was fired for his beliefs about and support for traditional marriage, now say those statements were false, according to a complaint filed with the Texas Workforce Commission.
The complaint was filed on behalf of James by officials with Liberty Institute, which is representing James.
According to the legal team, it was a national spokesperson for Fox Sports who told the Dallas Morning News “that James was terminated because of his religious beliefs about same-sex marriage.”
But now, “during a sworn deposition,” Fox Sports President Eric Shanks “stated that the Senior Vice-President for Communications and spokesperson for Fox Sports Lou D’Ermilio made false statements to the press.”
The organization also said Shanks said he did not know why D’Ermilio made the “false statements,” and there has been no investigation to determine why the statements were made.
The online copy of the complaint details what is alleged against Fox Sports: that officials rid themselves of James over his religious beliefs.
“Fox Sports’ firing of Craig James because of his sincerely held religious beliefs concerning marriage, beliefs held by millions of Americans, constitutes religious discrimination that violates the law,” said Jeff Mateer, general counsel for the Institute. “In order to avoid that claim, Fox executives now contend what their national spokesperson said to the media at the time of the firing was false.
“Someone’s not telling the truth. This action will get to the bottom of those contentions. Regardless, Fox Sports is responsible,” he said.
James accuses Fox Sports of religious employment discrimination based in part on Fox’s report to the media that he was terminated for comments made about his support for the biblical view of marriage while running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
According to Liberty, Fox told the Dallas Morning News: “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements [from the earlier Senate race about same-sex marriage] would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”
Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute’s managing director of strategic litigation, said, “It looks like Fox Sports is trying to run so fast from an employment claim capped at $300,000 that they are driving off the cliff into defamation and other common law claims that are limitless and may cost Fox Sports millions.”
James was a member of the famous “Pony Express” backfield at Southern Methodist University in the early 1980s. He went on to a successful NFL career and then transitioned into a broadcasting career for the next 20 years. He left ESPN in 2011 to run for an open U.S. Senate seat in Texas. He lost in the Republican primary in a race eventually won by Ted Cruz.
During one of the primary debates last year, the candidates were asked whether they support benefits for same-sex couples in civil unions that would be similar to those afforded traditionally married couples. In addition to stating he believed engaging in a homosexual lifestyle was a choice, he firmly opposed offering special benefits to “gay” couples and said their decisions would result in consequences.
“They are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions,” James, a devout Christian, told WND.
In August 2013, James was sought out and hired by Fox Sports Southwest to do post-game commentary for an hour each Saturday night. A day after his first appearance, he received a call informing him his employment had been terminated.
It was then that a Dallas Morning News report on the firing quoted an unnamed Fox Sports source as saying the termination was over his beliefs.
“Fox Sports did fire me, and they did issue a statement to the Dallas Morning News that said that my comments and my biblical belief on the definition of marriage would not fly in their HR department,” said James, who says even though the “comments” referenced by Fox Sports did not specifically refer to his stand on marriage, it’s clear his marriage comments were at issue.
“It has to be. When I gave that answer, that was 15 months before I took this job. Clearly I’m being punished for that and that’s just something that’s not right. That’s why I’m taking the time to make sure people understand the seriousness of this matter. This isn’t about me, Craig James. This is about an American who was fired from a major corporation, one that we’ve really come to trust, the irony of this thing it being in the Fox family. (I was) fired because I have a biblical belief and I have that right in this country,” he said.
In a subsequent statement issued several days later, Fox Sports moved away from its original rationale.
“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 said that explanation is rendered toothless by the first statement and the way Fox Sports enthusiastically announced his addition to their team.
“After the storm hit and they’ve now since tried to cover this up and rewrite history, they’re saying I’m polarizing. That doesn’t hold water because the Friday before I went on the air, Fox issued a national press release that was very complimentary, flattering of me and my talents and said I would be an asset to their coverage. It’s a classic case of, ‘Let’s cloud and distort what really happened here to take away from the heat that’s going to come our way,'” said James.
James stands behind the comments on marriage that he stated in last year’s debate and said the state of Texas clearly agrees with him.
“We have a law here in Texas,” he said. “A few years ago, we voted on it, where the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman and it was nearly 75-76 percent who support that belief, so it’s not like I have some unique feeling or belief on what marriage is in this country.
“I also said during that debate and on that issue that this is a choice. We all have choices to make in life. The choices that I choose to do, I will be judged for those by God. That’s my belief. That’s based on the Lord that I worship. Everyone, all of us, will be judged on Judgment Day according to their choices and things that they’ve done in their life. That’s not my business, not to judge, because the Bible tells me, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged,'” said James, quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1.
“I think the blowback on (his comments) have come because we’re at a fork in the road right now in this country. I really believe the message I’m trying to get out to like-minded believers or for those who enjoy having a faith, regardless of your faith, is to stand up and be heard,” he said. “Be bold and be passionate because the other side’s being bold and passionate about their positions in life.”
Listen to the interview: