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Video: Stephen A. Smith Apologizes for Shohei Ohtani Comments; Will Address Controversy on ‘First Take’ Tuesday

Stephen A. Smith
Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take” July 12, 2021

*ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith apologized on Monday for saying that baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani shouldn’t be the face of Major League Baseball because he uses a translator.

During Monday’s “First Take,” Smith told co-panelist Max Kellerman that the Los Angeles Angels player’s language barrier “contributes to harming” baseball.

“This brother is special, make no mistake about it,” Smith began. “But 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.”

“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,” Smith said. He added that the face of Major League Baseball “needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout,” both white, native born Americans. He said that Mark McGwire, also a white, native-born American, “saved baseball” in the 1990s because he was someone “you could put on Wheaties boxes.

Having an interpreter “comprises the ability for them to ingratiate themselves with the American public,” Smith said.

Watch below:

Backlash quickly ensued, and hours later Smith attempted to clarify his remarks in a two-minute video posted to social media, saying he was trying to make a larger point about an issue that all sports face, but didn’t specifically apologize to Ohtani or the Asian community in the video. In fact, he suggested – as he tends to do – that we, the audience, misinterpreted his initial remarks.

“When you’re a superstar [in the United States], if you could speak the English language, guess what, that’s going to make it that much easier … to promote the sport,” he explained.

Watch below:


This tweeted video also missed the mark with folks on social media, and prompted Smith to tweet again, this time blaming us, the audience, for “still not knowing me after all these years.”


About an hour later, Smith issued a written third apology, finally putting the blame squarely on himself.

“As an African-American, keenly aware of the damage stereotyping has done to many in this country, it should have 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.”

Smith said he would address the entire controversy and issue a fourth apology on “First Take” Tuesday, which begins at 10 a.m. EST.

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