Stephen A. Smith says he’s “sincerely sorry” for his comments about baseball star Shohei Ohtani.
The ESPN commentator tweeted out a lengthy apology on Monday after his statements on the morning talk show First Take — that Ohtani, a native of Japan, “contributes to harming the game” by not speaking fluent English and using a translator — went viral and drew widespread backlash.
“Let me apologize right now,” Smith said in the tweet. “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 shouldn’t elevated my sensitivities even more. Based on my words, I failed in that regard and it’s on me, and me alone!”
Smith added that “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.”
He concluded by saying that “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.” (Smith appears as a commentator on First Take each weekday morning alongside fellow commentator Max Kellerman and host Molly Qerim Rose.)
The controversy started earlier on Monday when Smith addressed the breakout stardom of Ohtani, who currently leads the major leagues with 33 home runs and made this year’s All-Star Game as both a pitcher and a hitter — the first player in MLB history to do so. Smith opined that Ohtani’s inability to speak English was bad for baseball’s marketability: “The fact that you’ve 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 Number 1 face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying.”