Craig James Gets on the “Religious Liberty” Self-Pity Bandwagon

So former football “analyst” Craig James, one of the more universally reviled TV sports guys ever, is suing Fox News for firing him over a homophobic comment he made while running a disastrously unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate. The grounds? His “religious liberty” has been violated! Here’s the story from Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Morning News.

Former SMU Mustang and football analyst Craig James has sued former employer Fox Sports, saying it was religious discrimination that led to his firing two years ago.

The suit, filed Monday in Dallas, alleges that opinions James voiced about gay marriage during his campaign for U.S. Senate should have no bearing on his role as a football analyst.

“I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty,” James said in a written statement. “Many people have lost their jobs because of their faith. Sadly, countless are afraid to let their bosses know they even have a faith.”

The comments in question came during a 2012 U.S. Senate debate that also featured Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and the eventual winner, Ted Cruz. James said being gay is a choice and questioned the country’s moral fiber as gay marriage gained a foothold around the country.

“I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade,” he said, joining Cruz in criticizing Leppert’s participation in two parades while mayor.

Months later James — whose broadcasting résumé includes stints at CBS, ESPN and ABC — was hired at Fox Sports Southwest and worked the opening Saturday in the Irving studio. He was let go the following day.

“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,” Fox Sports Southwest senior vice president of communications Lou D’Ermilio said. “He couldn’t say those things here.”

The mystery here is why Fox Sports Southwest chose this pretext for firing James instead of noting the hypocrisy of a man who has admitted taking money from boosters while a college football player pontificating about other people’s moral fiber. Or there’s the fact that he’s not very good at his job.

In any event, the incident should serve as a warning to those who are ginning up bogus threats to “religious liberty” that once unleashed it’s a weapon anybody can use. Conservatives love to complain about undeserving people using trumped-up claims of racial or gender discrimination to get what they want. Let’s see how they like it when the bandwagon for religious liberty includes people like Craig James.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.