Sports personality Stephen A. Smith issued an apology Monday (July 12) for his comments about Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani.
On an episode of ESPN’s First Take Monday morning, Smith said that Ohtani not speaking English presents a problem for Major League Baseball from a marketing standpoint, USA Today reports. In an apology posted on Twitter, Smith said that his comments about the pitcher and designated hitter fot the Los Angeles Angels were “clearly insensitive and regrettable.”
"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. Based on my words, I failed in that regard and it's on me and me alone!” Smith wrote.
He continued, “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-American community my comments -- albeit unintentional -- were clearly insensitive and regrettable.”
Smith received backlash for his comments regarding Ohtani’s lack of English fluency, in which he said, “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.”
He later tried to clarify his remarks in a video posted to Twitter later that day, saying he was trying to make a larger point about an issue that affects all sports.
"In the United States, all I was saying is that, when you're a superstar, if you could speak the English language, guess what, that's going to make it that much easier (and) less challenging to promote the sport," Smith said.
The initial video did not include a specific apology to Ohtani or the Asian community. Smith then issued the formal apology, which ends on a promise to “reiterate these words more extensively” on Tuesday morning’s episode of First Take.