Story at a glance

  • ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith issued an apology after saying Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani was “harming” the MLB because he “doesn’t speak English.”
  • Smith made the initial comments on Monday’s episode of “First Take.”
  • Smith faced swift backlash online for what people, including some of his colleagues, called anti-Asian comments.

An ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith has issued an apology after saying Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani was “harming” the MLB because he “doesn’t speak English.”

 

“Let me apologize right now,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “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 many in this country, it should’ve elevated my sensitivities even more. Based on my words, I failed in that regard and it’s on me, and me alone. 

“Ohtani is one of the brightest stars in all of sports. He is making a difference, as it pertains to inclusiveness and leadership. I should have embraced that in my comments. Instead, I screwed up. 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. Again, I am sorry. And I’ll happily reiterate these words more extensively tomorrow morning, as well.”


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Smith was met with swift backlash on Monday after his comments on Ohtani were aired on the episode of “First Take,” during which he said, “The fact that you got a foreign player that doesn’t speak English, that needs an interpreter, believe it or not, I think contributes to harming the game to some degree, when that’s your box-office appeal.” 

Smith continued, “When you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark to actually watch you, 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 is saying — in this country. And that’s what I’m trying to say.” 

After initial pushback on his comments, Smith tweeted a video of himself stating people were “misinterpreting” him. 


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“People are misinterpreting what I’m saying,” Smith said in his video, adding that, “a lot of [baseball players] need translators. You know, Spanish, it can be Mandarin, Japanese, the list goes on and on and on. If you are trying to ingratiate yourself with the American public the way Major League Baseball is because of the problems that you’re having to deal with in terms of approving the attractiveness of the sport, it helps if you spoke the English language.” 

Many, including some of his colleagues, were not satisfied with Smith’s claims of being misunderstood, noting the recent increase in anti-Asian violence and sentiments that have occurred during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to his Twitter apology.

ESPN pointed The Hill to Smith’s initial video explaining himself when contacted for comment.


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Published on Jul 13, 2021