NextSharkNextShark.com
Latest Newsletter🍵 White House’s first Lunar New YearRead

Article

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith apologizes after rant on MLB phenom Shohei Ohtani’s ‘marketability’

    Asian America Daily - in under 5 minutes

    Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories, to your inbox daily, for free!

    Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive

    Sports commentator Stephen A. Smith made a public apology Monday night after his xenophobic rant on Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani drew backlash online. 

    Controversial comments: During his ESPN show, “First Take,” on Monday, Smith claimed Ohtani’s rise in Major League Baseball (MLB) would potentially harm the sport because he doesn’t speak English. 

    • “In the United States of America, when you talk about the sport of Major League Baseball, you talk about its lack of diversity in terms of African American players, you talk about the influx of foreign players,” he said.
    • According to Smith, Ohtani’s use of an interpreter is hurting baseball’s marketability: “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 also compared the MLB players who need interpreters to foreign NBA stars, such as Dirk Nowitzki and Manu Ginobili, who speak fluent English, and other NBA stars in Europe or South American who don’t need interpreters.
    • “For some reason, with Major League Baseball, you 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,” he said.

    False claims: Despite Smith’s claims that the face of baseball needs to be English-speaking players to succeed and listed famous white American players as examples, there are reports that Ohtani’s continued rise on the field draws fans to the sport.

    • Ohtani, who leads the league in home runs this year, has earned the slot as the starting pitcher and leadoff hitter for the American League in the All-Star Game, NextShark previously reported.
    • Ohtani is the most-searched player on the MLB Film Room video tool, reported Reuters.

    Immediate backlash: Reactions to Smith’s rant on Ohtani online were largely negative, with many social media users pointing out how insensitive and ignorant the statements were.

    • Some users retweeted a video clip of Ohtani doing his Rookie of the Year speech in English back in 2019.

    • Another tweet highlighted how MLB star Ichiro Suzuki also chose to use an interpreter to express his message more consistently.

    • ESPN baseball analyst Jeff Passan also weighed in on the controversy: “Shohei Ohtani came to this country at 23 years old. He left behind his family. He left behind his culture. He left behind his country. He left behind everything he knows to go and pursue the American dream. He wanted to come here and be great. And he is the sort of person who this show and who this network and who this country should embrace. We are not the ones who should be trafficking in ignorance.”

    Featured Image via The Undefeated (left), Los Angeles Angels (right)

    Support our Journalism with a Contribution

    Many people might not know this, but despite our large and loyal following which we are immensely grateful for, NextShark is still a small bootstrapped startup that runs on no outside funding or loans.

    Everything you see today is built on the backs of warriors who have sacrificed opportunities to help give Asians all over the world a bigger voice.

    However, we still face many trials and tribulations in our industry, from figuring out the most sustainable business model for independent media companies to facing the current COVID-19 pandemic decimating advertising revenues across the board.

    We hope you consider making a contribution so we can continue to provide you with quality content that informs, educates and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way.  Thank you for everyone's support. We love you all and can't appreciate you guys enough.

    Support NextShark

    Mastercard, Visa, Amex, Discover, Paypal