Fox Sports Disputes Craig James’ Accusation That He Was Terminated for His Conservative Religious Views

Craig James FOX Sports Firing
Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Sports commentator Craig James is threatening legal action against Fox Sports for firing him from his role as an analyst on a regional network, but Fox says that he was dropped because he was “not a good fit” and a “polarizing figure in the college sports community.”

James, a former NFL running back and conservative politician, was hired in August as an analyst for Fox Sports Southwest, having last held a regular gig on ESPN before his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in Texas last year. But he was dropped after one appearance, with Fox explaining that the decision to use him “was not properly vetted.”

During his campaign, James came out against same-sex marriage and, at a candidates forum, said that being gay was a “choice.” “I think that you have to make that choice,” he said at the forum. “But in that case right there, they are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions.”

In a letter to Fox Sports sent on Tuesday by the Liberty Institute, an advocacy law firm in Plano, Texas, that is representing James, the org’s general counsel Jeffrey Mateer wrote that the decision to terminate James was a “severe violation” of his religious liberty, and demanded his reinstatement and a response from Fox within 48 hours. He cited a comment that a Fox spokesman made to the Dallas Morning News after he was dropped. “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.

Yet after the Liberty Institute letter, Fox issued a statement in which it said that there were reasons other than his religious conservatism for his dismissal. “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 at Fox Sports.

“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 was hired by Jon Heidtke, general manager of the regional sports network. His dismissal was announced two days after his sole Aug. 31 appearance.

In the letter, Mateer said his termination “raises serious issues” of religious discrimination, “unlawful disparagement” of James’ character, “malicious interference” with his employment and “unlawful termination.” He wrote that James’ views on same-sex marriage “are very personal. They are his sincerely held religious beliefs. These views are not part of sports or sports broadcasting, and Mr. James has not and never would discuss his personal faith on the air or in his employment capacity, and FSSW and Fox Sports knew this when they hired Mr. James and they know it now.”

Before he ran for the Senate, James was embroiled in a controversy over the firing of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. Leach was terminated in 2009 after an investigation into alleged abusive behavior toward one of his players, Adam James, Craig James’ son. But Leach claimed that Craig James, then working for ESPN, complained to the university about how his son was being used on the team, and that James played a role in his firing. A judge last month dismissed a defamation suit that Leach had filed against the elder James and ESPN.

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  1. jhand says:

    James seems to be a victim of his own hubris. He was not forced into running for Senate on the “God” ticket. Nor should he expect his views to be accepted by either the networks or the audience. I know that most sports mavens tend to be conservative—Ditka, Howie Long, Paterno, Holtz, and most other coaches. However, most of them have the good sense not to run for political office or express homophobic opinions in public while pulling down a fat check from a nationwide TV network. They tend to choose Mammon over God when it comes to income.

    • William Hudson says:

      On the contrary, jhand, you seem to be a victim of the pervasive political correctness that is presently gripping our nation. In other words, you would not feel free to express your personal views on your own time for fear of being terminated by your employer. My, how far we have strayed from the uniquely American concept of freedom of expression or should I say from the moral courage to stand for that in which you believe. That is the major difference between Mr. James and all of the little government minions. You obviously believe it is proper for your employer to have the power to limit your ability to speak truth (which is exactly what James was doing) on your own time. Hopefully Fox Sports will very quickly feel the legal ramifications of mimicing MSNBC and the other progressive media cesspools. And you are correct, James, as apposed to some others, obviously chose God over mammon in this case.

  2. David says:

    What about his cheating during his smu years? Is god keeping track of that stuff too?

  3. Sue says:

    David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied … today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel … it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

  4. Dena says:

    Now he knows how Mike Leach feels. Serves him right!

  5. Pat says:

    Don’t think much of Craig James or the way he used his position at ESPN to denounce Mike Leach. Hope his son has learned from his role in the fiasco.

  6. Bob says:

    “Baring false witness, much, Mr. James?” … “The Texas Tech Massacre Dec. 2009”.

    By the way, how’s that son of yours, Nancy #82, doing? Sacrifice him for your own ego?

  7. Mark says:

    12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4)

    • Adam Who? says:

      He didn’t get fired because he’s Christian. He got fired because he’s a slimy weasel. God is showing him mercy because he’s still alive after the crap he pulled in 2009. It’s real sad because I am a Pats fan and was cheering for him on Sunday 30 years ago. Maybe you should help “save” him because he’s using his prior status as a great football player to influence people in the wrong ways. That’s an evil act, go “cleanse” his sole because it has the hands of the devil all over it.

  8. Cjk5h says:

    I will not watch or listen to Craig James -EVER! The sight of him makes my skin crawl. Fox wants viewers not to turn the dial. They were smart to fire him. Should fire the ones responsible for hiring him to begin with ,

  9. robin says:

    Are you kidding me… “polarizing figure”??? Craig James has been one of my FAVORITE commentators for years… 24 years and NOW you say he is polarizing… I’d say there are plenty of other guys who could SURELY be labeled that.. .but NOT CRAIG JAMES!!! Are you saying that because he is positive, respectful and knowledgable he is not fit to comment any longer. Get the other JERKS off and keep Craig James on… this is horrendous!

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