Stephen A. Smith Faces Backlash for Saying Shohei Ohtani Needing an Interpreter Harms Baseball (UPDATE)

On the latest episode of 'First Tale,' Stephen A. Smith tried to make the point that the current face of baseball needing an interpreter is bad for the game.

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UPDATED 7/12, 6:29 a.m. ET: Stephen A. Smith has apologized for the widely criticized comments he made regarding Shohei Ohtani.

“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 word, I failed in that regard and it’s on me, and me alone!”

You can read his full apology message below.

I'm sincerely sorry.

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 12, 2021

See original story below.

Stephen A. Smith is facing backlash comments he made about Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani.

During Monday’s episode of ESPN’s First Take, Smith said Major League Baseball has a problem if the Japanese superstar is the league’s main attraction. Smith went on to criticize the fact that the current face of baseball needs an interpreter, saying its bad for the game.

“I know what he’s doing on the field,” Smith said. “I know it’s nothing short of spectacular. And I understand that baseball is an international sport itself in terms of participation. But 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. And that’s what I’m trying to say.”

Smith argued that foreign born basketball players Dirk Nowitzki and Manu Ginobli learning to speak English while played in America “goes a long way.”

“For some reason, with Major League Baseball, you got those guys who need interpreters and I think that compromises the ability for them to ingratiate themselves with the American public, which is what we’re really talking about,” he added.”

Smith’s co-host, Max Kellerman, said he thought Smith made a “good point.”

“If your point is, he’s gotta learn English, I agree with that,” Kellerman said. “I think the language barrier in every sport—not just baseball—is useful to learn the native tongue of the vast majority of most Americans. Certainly the language that this country speaks.”

Smith’s comments come the same month he called the baseball star a “modern day Babe Ruth” who wasn’t getting the marketing he deserved. But, after his latest segment, people condmened Smith for being xenophobic. It was similar to the criticism he faced for comments he made after Team USA’s loss to Nigeria in an exhibition game last week, in which he butchered the last names of players on Team Nigeria. 

A one minute clip with no basketball analysis and pure disrespect to the names of our culture.

Do better please @stephenasmith. This is low, even for you.

— D’Tigers | Nigeria Basketball (@NigeriaBasket) July 12, 2021

After the backlash, Smith stood by his remarks.

On my earlier comments about Ohtani

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 12, 2021

“I’m talking about the marketability and the promotion of the sport,” he said in a video post. “… If you are a sport trying to ingratiate yourself with the American public the way Major League Baseball is, because of the problems you’ve been dealing with in terms of having to improve the attractiveness of the sport, it helps if you speak the English language.”

Smith maintained that there was no other subtext to his remarks. “In the United States, all I was saying was that if you’re a superstar and can speak the English language then, guess what, it’s going to make it that much easier and less challenging to promote the sport,” he added.

Below, some of the more notable reactions to Smith’s comments about Ohtani.

Stephen A Smith saying that Shohei Ohtani, responsible for the 10 highest viewed regular season games this year and what will likely be the most watched HRD ever, shouldn’t be considered a face of baseball because he needs an interpreter. Kindly piss off

— Brian Schlosser (@brian_slosh) July 12, 2021

*Turns on First Take*

Stephen A Smith: it’s a bad thing Ohtani is the face of baseball because he has an interpreter…In fact, he could be harming the game

*Turns off First Take forever*

— J Magrath (@jmacle) July 12, 2021

stephen a smith’s take is not only blatant racism but incredibly wrong lmao. Shohei Ohtani is the coolest thing that’s come to baseball in years. what a jackass

— kelbin (@pissboymcgee) July 12, 2021

Launch Stephen A. Smith into the fucking sun already

— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) July 12, 2021

How everybody is looking at Stephen A Smith right now

— Chris Williamson (@CWilliamson44) July 12, 2021

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