Fox Sports has responded to a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by former football commentator Craig James, who claims he was fired by the network for opposing marriage equality.
It was August 2013 when the former Southern Methodist University and New England Patriots footballer was hired by Fox Sports Southwest as a football-analyst, but the position was short-lived, with James fired days later and after just one on-air appearance when his opposition to gay marriage surfaced from comments he made during a failed 2012 U.S. Senate run.
During a Senate campaign debate
, James said gay people would one day "have to answer to the Lord for their actions."
“I think right now in this country, our moral fibre 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,” he said.
“I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade.”
James, who filed the lawsuit on Monday and is seeking $100,000 (£64,000) in damages, is demanding a jury trial to hear claims against the network that include breach of contract and violations of state law.
Senior vice president of communications for Fox Networks Group Scott Grogin told The Dallas Morning News Craig
was “a polarising 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”.
“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.”
But James said the case demonstrates the impact to every person who holds religious beliefs.
“I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty,” he said.
“Today, many people have lost their jobs because of their faith. Sadly, countless are afraid to let their bosses know they even have a faith. This is America, and I intend to make sure Fox Sports knows they aren’t above the law.”
Deputy chief counsel with the conservative advocacy group Hiram Sasser told the Dallas AP when Fox fired James
, the network publicly cited his views on marriage as a reason..
"It's pretty rare that a company engages in religious discrimination in the firing of an employee and then issues a statement confirming that's the reason," he said.
Words by TROY NANKERVIS.