Stephen A. Smith apologizes for reiterating his idiotic claim that Shohei Ohtani used an interpreter to communicate with the media.
Stephen A. Smith's assessment is inadequate.
The ESPN broadcaster and analyst, who co-hosts "First Take" with Max Kellerman, said Monday that it was not a good look for MLB's biggest star, Shohei Ohtani, to be a translator-dependent player. Whichever way you frame it, it is identical to every other tired and racist "speak English in America" remark that has been made.
“I understand that baseball is an international sport in terms of participation,” Smith said on Wednesday's show, "but when you're talking about an audience gravitating to the tube or the ballpark to watch you, OK, I don't think it helps that the number one face is a dude who requires an interpreter to understand what the hell he's saying in this country."
Smith then took to his personal social media feed to explain his position further. Even his ESPN coworkers disputed his claim. “Perhaps we should refrain from asking the most gifted player in recorded baseball history to chop up lil morsels of English soundbites and make airplane noises while spoonfeeding them to us as well,” Pablo Torre, host of the “ESPN Daily Podcast,” wrote. And ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes quoted Ohtani's All-Star appearances as saying, "Gonna go ahead and say this translates in any language."
All of the pushback appears to have finally caught up with him. He issued an apology late Monday after initially doubling down. “I made a mistake,” he wrote. “In today's world, with all of the violence directed at the Asian Community, my remarks — albeit unintentional — were clearly insensitive and regrettable... I apologize profusely for any distress my comments have caused.”
Baseball, as we all know, has a youth problem. Baseball, on the other hand, does not have a language problem. And when Smith defended himself, he claimed he was merely concerned with baseball's marketing while also claiming he didn't watch Ohtani in the same way he did Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire.
“Baseball is a fantastic game, a fantastic sport, and some of the world's greatest players are international players. (Fernando Tatis Jr.) comes to mind; I adore this brother and the contributions he makes, and Otani is the second coming of Babe Ruth. That is not what I was attempting to convey in a video posted to Twitter following the show. “I'm referring to the marketability and promotion of the sport, which is precisely what Sports Illustrated alluded to in an article last month when it stated that 28% of Major League Baseball players are foreign players.
“Many of them require translators; you may be familiar with Spanish, but it could also be Mandarin or Japanese,” Smith continued. “If you are a sport attempting to ingratiate itself with the American public, the way Major League Baseball is doing so is a result of the difficulties associated with increasing the sport's attractiveness. It helps if you speak English; however, this does not imply anything more. In the United States, all I was saying was that if you're a superstar and can communicate in English, guess what? That will make it significantly easier and less challenging to promote the sport.”
Certainly not, Stephen A. We understood exactly what you were attempting to convey. You are still incorrect, coming from a young reporter whose family arrived in this country as native Spanish and native Tagalog speakers. My family, who does not speak English, fell in love with baseball and the MLB despite the country's own language barrier.
When I checked, watching baseball on "the tube" or "at the ballpark" entailed going to watch the game. This is not a sit-down fireside conversation.
Additionally, athletes whose first language is not English have historically communicated with the media through an interpreter to ensure their message is conveyed correctly.
The issue in baseball is small-minded individuals who make comments about phenomenal players not speaking English — which, by the way, Ohtani has been practicing in order to communicate more effectively in the clubhouse.
Did anyone think twice about flocking to Yankee Stadium last week solely to watch Ohtani and the Angels play (against the struggling Yankees)? Certainly not. What if Ichiro Suzuki played for the Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, or New York Yankees? No way. And what about Masahiro Tanaka? What do you think of Hideki Matsui? You understand the point.
And, for the record, the United States does not have a federally mandated official language.