Stephen A. Smith is in the opinion business like many other sports media figures, and that sometimes leads to an utterance or two that should’ve remained unsaid. The ESPN personality came under fire for suggesting Asian MLB star Shohei Ohtani hire an interpreter when addressing the media but has since apologized for the insensitive remarks.
Shohei “Shotime” Ohtani was the subject of discussion during a recent episode of First Take when Smith made the observation that despite the fandom surrounding Ohtani, he believed that the fact the star pitcher and outfielder’s lack of speaking English hurts the game.
“When you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark to actually watch you, OK, I don’t think it helps that the No. 1 face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying in this country,” Smith was heard saying. “And that’s what I’m trying to say.”
Almost immediately, baseball fans and other observers slammed Smith’s assertion that Ohtani’s inability to speak to American audiences will keep viewers away despite the fact baseball is seen as the most popular sport in Ohtani’s home country of Japan and the vast amount Asian-Americans that tune in to the sport here in the states.
Taking to social media, Smith walked back his comments and expressed remorse for his initial missive.
“Let me apologize right now,” Smith wrote in his statement. “As I’m watching things unfold, let me say that I never intended to offend any community, particularly the asian community — and especially Shohei Ohtani, himself. As an African American, keenly aware of the damage stereotyping has done to so many in this country, it should’ve elevated my sensitivities even more.”
It should be noted that Ohtani can indeed speak English but prefers to use an interpreter, perhaps for the ease of it all.
Smith concluded his apology with, “In this day and age, with all the violence being perpetrated against the Asian community, my comments — albeit unintentional — were clearly insensitive and regrettable. There’s simply no other way to put it. I’m sincerely sorry for any angst I’ve caused with my comments on First Take this morning.”