Is Stephen A Smith xenophobic? ESPN commentator sorry for mocking Shohei Ohtani's English

ESPN's Stephen A Smith apologized and admitted he '​screwed up' with his comments on Japanese MLB star Shohei Ohtani's need for an English interpreter

                            Is Stephen A Smith xenophobic? ESPN commentator sorry for mocking Shohei Ohtani's English
Stephen A Smith earned severe backlash for 'xenophobic' comments about MLB star Shohei Ohtani (Justin Casterline/Getty Images, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Veteran ESPN commentator Stephen A Smith has been lambasted on social media for his insensitive and tasteless comment on MLB star Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese-born star of Los Angeles Angels, who is hailed as the first legitimate two-way player since Babe Ruth, needs an interpreter for his lack of proficiency in English. In a rant on 'First Take', Smith lashed out at Ohtani's need for an interpreter, saying that he cannot be the face of baseball since he cannot speak English. 

Smith later issued an elaborate apology statement on Twitter — where he addressed the prevalence of racism and how his comments on Ohtani might have sparked deeper problems. "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 in some degree when that’s your box office appeal. It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. And unfortunately, at this moment in time, that’s not the case," he had said originally on the show.


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He further banked upon his views, citing the instances of NBA players from Europe and South America, who did not need an interpreter. " got these guys that need those 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," Smith added. 

However, his comments did not sit well with the general public and Ohtani's fans, who found his rant xenophobic. He was dubbed 'wildly ignorant' by Twitterati and earned severe backlash — that eventually prompted him to issue the apology. 

Baseball journalist Jared Carrabis tweeted, "I landed in Denver, had a bunch of “thoughts on Stephen A Smith?” tweets in my mentions and went immediately to “Why does anyone care what he has to say about baseball?” But if his stance is Shohei can’t be the Face of Baseball with an interpreter then fuck him. Wildly ignorant."

"I need an interpreter to help me understand why people care about Stephen A. Smith," MLB writer Anthony Castrovince tweeted. Former Trump advisor Jason Miller said, "If a GOPer had said this they’d have been immediately blackballed and deplatformed. But not Stephen A.! What an idiotic comment though. Completely ignorant. Shohei Ohtani is changing the game! We should be celebrating him!"

Another user lashed out, saying, "I’d rather listen to Shohei Ohtani speak Japanese than Stephen A. Smith speak English." 

"Baseball is one of the most diverse sports there are. Shohei Ohtani’s talent speaks for itself and he has made this season exciting. This is such an ignorant take by Stephen A. Smith. Comes off pretty xenophobic," tweeted one user.






Hours later, Smith tweeted a statement of apology, where he said he was "sincerely sorry". 

His statement read as follows: "Let me apologize right now. 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 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 unintentional – 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 on ‘First Take’ this morning. Again, I am sorry. And I’ll happily reiterate these words more extensively tomorrow morning, as well."



Smith further posted a video where he profusely apologized for his comments again.