Stephen A. Smith apologizes for Shohei Ohtani comments: ‘I screwed up’

Hours after critiquing Shohei Ohtani’s use of an interpreter, Stephen A. Smith has issued an apology for his remarks.

Hours after critiquing Shohei Ohtani’s use of an interpreter — and unsuccessfully trying to explain them — ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has issued an apology for his remarks.

“Let me apologize right now,” Smith wrote. “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.” 

On Monday’s episode of “First Take,” Smith said Ohtani isn’t the ideal person to be the face of baseball because he “doesn’t speak English.”

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith during Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Getty Images

“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,” he told co-hosts Molly Qerim and Max Kellerman. “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.”

Smith tried to clarify his position amid mounting rebukes, first with a pair of tweets and then a video in which he doubled down.

“People are misinterpreting what I’m saying,” Smith said in the video. “… 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.” 

His colleagues at the World Wide Leader were not satisfied with his initial rounds of apologies.

After ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan tweeted that he would appear on Tuesday’s “First Take” to talk about Ohtani — “I’ve got some things to say,” he wrote — “SportsCenter” anchor Nicole Briscoe replied that she wished “the bosses had some things to say.”

Smith’s rant was the latest black eye for ESPN, which is still dealing with the fallout from “The Jump” host Rachel Nichols being caught on tape expressing her unease over co-worker Maria Taylor getting 2020 NBA Finals duty, which she believed was because “diversity.” ESPN gave Taylor the nod to cover the finals this year, and pulled Nichols off of “The Jump,” for just one taping as a result of the journalists’ comments.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Jared Greenspan

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