The fourth circle could include someone who makes politically incorrect statements off the air. These days, sadly, not only candidates for the Supreme Court have to be careful. But if one area of American life should absolutely allow free speech, it should be political campaigns: Call them a fifth circle. Fox Sports, though, moved James into the first circle for having said, while running for the Senate, what a big majority of Texans believe: Three out of four voted in 2005 to amend the Texas Constitution to keep same-sex unions from being defined as marriage.
If the Fox decision stands, millions of other Americans may also be declared unemployable in their professions. Fox Sports is defending itself now by saying James “is a polarizing figure in the college sports community.” (Texas Tech fans don’t like James because he was instrumental in getting popular Tech coach Mike Leach fired four years ago after Leach inhumanely castigated and punished James’ son, who had suffered a concussion.) That sounds like a post-firing rationalization, especially since polarizers can bring high ratings: Remember Howard Cosell?
We’ll watch what happens in a scheduled Nov. 5 district court hearing on the dispute. I’m not one who worries incessantly about the dark night of fascism descending in America, but I recall a remark in Philip Kerr’s novel If the Dead Rise Not, set largely in Berlin in 1934: One character sadly mutters, “I was remembering what it was like to speak without looking over your shoulder.”
If this is a purge and Fox Sports gets away with it, the James case will be a landmark on the road to freedom of speech and religion becoming one day in America only a precious memory.