Stephen A. Smith came under fire on Monday morning after comments made about Los Angeles Angels star Shoehei Ohtani.
Smith criticized Ohtani, who is starting in the MLB All-Star Game as a pitcher and hitting leadoff after participating in Monday’s Home Run Derby, for his use of a translator.
The ESPN talking head made the comments during First Take.
“The fact that you got a foreign player that doesn’t speak English, believe it or not, I think contributes to harming the game to some degree, when that’s your box office appeal,” Smith said.” “It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. And unfortunately at this point in time, that’s not the case.
“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’s saying, in this country. And that’s what I’m trying to say.”
Stephen A. Smith says Shohei Ohtani needing an interpreter "contributes to harming" baseball 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/2J5jRGartx
— Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) July 12, 2021
Since coming under fire, Smith has not issued an apology on social media.
“As I’m watching things unfold, let me say that I never intended to offend ANY COMMUNITY, particularly the Asian Community — and especially SHOEHEI 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,” Smith wrote. “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 unintentionally — 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 this morning. Again, I am sorry. And I’ll happily reiterate these words more extensively tomorrow morning, as well.”
Ohtani, who is leading MLB in home runs at the all-star break, is favored to win the Home Run Derby on Monday night.