DALLAS (AP) – Former college football television analyst Craig James on Monday filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against Fox Sports that contends he was fired because he had expressed opposition to gay marriage during a failed run for the U.S. Senate in Texas.
The former running back for Southern Methodist University and the New England Patriots is seeking at least $100,000 in damages. Fox hired him in August 2013 – months after he lost a Republican Senate primary won by Ted Cruz – only to fire him days later.
James filed his suit in Dallas County, where he is seeking a jury trial to hear claims against the network that include breach of contract and violations of state law.
Fox Sports did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Monday on the lawsuit, and a Dallas attorney for the network did not immediately return a call for comment.
James was a longtime color commentator for ESPN who quit to run for the Senate in 2012. During the campaign, James said he opposed gay marriage and that gay people would one day “have to answer to the Lord for their actions.”
Last year, James filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission over his firing. Fox later issued a statement saying James was hired by regional executives and was not “properly vetted.”
James has alleged that a national Fox Sports spokesman told The Dallas Morning News that James was terminated from Fox Sports Southwest for religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.
James is being represented in his lawsuit by the Texas-based Liberty Institute.
Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel with the conservative advocacy group, said that when Fox fired James, the network publicly stated that his view on marriage was a reason. Sasser said that James was fired after Sports Illustrated magazine contacted Fox about the hiring in light of James’ comment during a primary debate that he opposed gay marriage.
“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,” Sasser said.
In its statement last year, Fox called James “a polarizing figure in the college sports community” and said “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 statement was apparently a reference to James’ criticism of former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach’s handling of an injury to James’ son Adam when Adams James was a wide receiver at Tech and Craig James was a commentator at ESPN.