Fired Fox Sports Broadcaster Joins Family Research Council

DALLAS, TX - MAY 12: College football analyst Craig James attends the Time Warner Cable Media Upfront Event 'Summertime Is Cable Time' on May 12, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. 
National Journal
Mike Magner
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Mike Magner
April 8, 2014, 8 a.m.

After be­ing fired from Fox Sports last fall for his views against same-sex mar­riage, former foot­ball star and broad­caster Craig James is, by his own ad­mis­sion, “ra­dio­act­ive.”

“It’s put me in a bad spot,” James said Tues­day, hours after it was an­nounced that he would be­come as­sist­ant to the pres­id­ent at the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil, a na­tion­al ad­vocacy group foun­ded in 1983 by a group of Chris­ti­an lead­ers led by James Dob­son.

“It’s cre­ated a really ra­dio­act­ive deal around me, that I am an­ti­gay,” said James, 53. “It was a suck­er punch.”

In fact, James had made clear his po­s­i­tions on fam­ily val­ues and the defin­i­tion of mar­riage long be­fore be­ing offered a one-hour show on Fox Sports South­w­est in the Dal­las-Fort Worth area, where he has lived most of his life. When he was a Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate for the Sen­ate in Texas in 2012, James of­ten stated his re­li­gious be­liefs against ho­mo­sexu­al­ity.

In a Feb­ru­ary 2012 de­bate with oth­er GOP can­did­ates, in­clud­ing even­tu­al win­ner Ted Cruz, James said: “I think 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. I can as­sure you I will nev­er ride in a gay parade.”

Asked if he thought people choose to be gay, James re­spon­ded, “I think it’s a choice, I do.”

The mod­er­at­or pushed him fur­ther: “It’s not in the genes?”

“I think that you have to make that choice,” James said. “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.”

More than a year and a half later, James was in­vited back to sports tele­vi­sion by a gen­er­al man­ager from Fox Sports in Dal­las, who offered the former ES­PN broad­caster a one-hour pro­gram start­ing with the col­lege foot­ball sea­son in Septem­ber. (James quit his job at ES­PN in late 2011 to enter polit­ics after 23 years cov­er­ing col­lege games.)

“I did my first one-hour show, and the very next day I was fired,” James said. “A Fox cor­por­ate guy in Cali­for­nia is­sued a state­ment that said, “˜James’s views are not con­sist­ent with our HR policy.’ “

James is now headed to­ward lit­ig­a­tion against Fox for vi­ol­at­ing his re­li­gious free­dom. The Texas Work­force Com­mis­sion has already is­sued a charge of dis­crim­in­a­tion against Fox Sports South­w­est on be­half of James and the Liberty In­sti­tute, a con­ser­vat­ive group that has taken up his cause.

While the case is pro­ceed­ing through the courts, James plans to raise his pro­file in his new full-time job with the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil as top aide to the group’s pres­id­ent, Tony Per­kins.

“I will be spend­ing time in Wash­ing­ton and all over the coun­try,” James said. “I might host his ra­dio show, push for le­gis­la­tion in vari­ous places, cul­tiv­ate re­la­tion­ships I’ve de­veloped over the years. There is so much to do.”

He summed up his mes­sage this way: “the Con­sti­tu­tion, the First Amend­ment, and re­li­gious free­dom.” It’s a motto that par­al­lels the mis­sion state­ment on the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil web­site: “Our vis­ion is a cul­ture in which hu­man life is val­ued, fam­il­ies flour­ish, and re­li­gious liberty thrives.”

While the past two years have been a roller-coast­er ride, James looks back on them as hav­ing a pur­pose. “If I hadn’t run for of­fice I nev­er would have made the pub­lic state­ments I made, and I nev­er would have been fired, and I nev­er would have been no­ticed by the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil,” he said. “Now I feel like the dots have been con­nec­ted for me.”

In some ways, James feels for­tu­nate not to be in the Sen­ate. “Every­one in elect­ive of­fice is run­ning scared and afraid of be­ing bul­lied for mak­ing the wrong state­ment,” he said. “And what’s get­ting done in Con­gress? Noth­ing.”

As a voice for fam­ily val­ues, James can point to his own life as an ex­ample of keep­ing the faith in tough times, watch­ing as his di­vorced moth­er struggled to keep him and his broth­er safe and healthy. “I grew up an apart­ment boy,” he said. “I have eaten my fair share of may­on­naise sand­wiches. I have found evic­tion no­tices taped to our door.”

Sports gave James a way out, he said. He was a star run­ning back in high school, and was offered a con­tract to play first base for the New York Yan­kees. He chose foot­ball, ac­cept­ing an ath­let­ic schol­ar­ship to South­ern Meth­od­ist Uni­versity, where he teamed up with an­oth­er fu­ture NFL star, run­ning back Eric Dick­er­son.

James later played for the Wash­ing­ton Fed­er­als in the now-de­funct US­FL. He then joined the New Eng­land Pat­ri­ots, which put him in the 1986 Su­per Bowl, a 46-10 rout by the Chica­go Bears. He played five years for the Pat­ri­ots and went in­to broad­cast­ing just after re­tir­ing in 1989, first do­ing ra­dio for SMU games and then work­ing as a sports an­chor at a Dal­las TV sta­tion.

ES­PN fre­quently had James ap­pear on its col­lege pregame and post­game shows, where he be­came a hit with the en­er­get­ic former coach, Lee Corso, who called James “Mus­tang Breath” in ref­er­ence to SMU’s mas­cot. James did stints with CBS and ABC and fin­ished out his broad­cast­ing ca­reer work­ing col­lege games on both ABC and ES­PN.

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