During a segment of the show, the ESPN host implied that the United States would struggle to embrace Ohtani because he uses an interpreter. Although the Los Angeles Angels star speaks English, Smith appeared to gloss over that fact and claim that MLB’s home-run leader would not be able to entice fans because it is not his primary language.
“…But when you talk about an audience gravitating to the (TV) tube, or to the ballpark, to actually watch you, okay, 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,” Smith said during Monday’s First Take.
After trying to clarify his comments in the midst of fierce pushback, Smith finally gave in and apologized for his insensitive take about Ohtani on Monday evening.
“Let me apologize right now,” Smith wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “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.”
I'm sincerely sorry. pic.twitter.com/pANjWTrD4X
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 12, 2021
Smith’s apology is the start of making amends for his questionable comments on Monday. He’ll surely address the remarks again during Tuesday’s episode of First Take.
Meanwhile, Ohtani will participate in the 2021 Home Run Derby Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Angels star will then start on the mound and bat lead-off for the American League team in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic.