Fox Sports hired former NFL player James in 2013, only to fire him two days later, after he made controversial statements about LGBT people, asserting that homosexuality is a choice.
“Right now in this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is going to be hard to stop if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades,” the Republican said at the time during a failed run for the U.S. Senate. “I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade.”
After the incident, Fox Sports Southwest senior vice president of communications Lou D’Ermilio said network execs “just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”
James is seeking at least $100,000 in damages. In the suit filed in Dallas County Monday morning, he claims that it was his religious beliefs coming under attack that caused him to be axed.
“Fox Sports fired Craig James because of his religious beliefs about marriage and his expression of those beliefs during a debate when James ran in the Texas Republican primary for United States Senator,” reads the suit.
“Craig James is a man of faith and integrity, which calls him foremost to show love and kindness to all those around him, regardless of whether they share his beliefs,” the suit goes on. “According to his faith, all people possess intrinsic value, and all people deserve love and respect—including the freedom not to be judged, penalized, or punished for their beliefs.”
In a statement issued to the Dallas Morning News, Fox Networks Group senior vice president of communications Scott Grogin fought back against the allegations.
“As we have previously stated, 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,” he said. “The decision had nothing to do with Mr. James’ religious beliefs and we did not discriminate against Mr. James in any way. The allegations are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them.”
Before joining Fox Sports, James was a commentator for ESPN. He quit that gig in 2012 to run for the U.S. Senate. James is represented in the suit by the Texas-based Liberty Institute.