ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith has issued an apology and admitted he “screwed up” with his comments earlier in the day about Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani and his impact on the popularity of Major League Baseball.
“As an African-American, keenly aware of the damage stereotyping has done to many in this country, it should have elevated my sensitivities even more,” Smith wrote in a statement posted to social media.
“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.”
On ESPN’s “First Take” program Monday morning, Smith said that baseball’s home run leader not speaking English presents a problem for MLB from a marketing standpoint.
“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,” he said.
After a storm of criticism, Smith tried to clarify his remarks in a two-minute video, saying he was trying to make a larger point about an issue that all sports face.
“In the United States, all I was saying is that, when you’re a superstar, if you could speak the English language, guess what, that’s going to make it that much easier (and) less challenging to promote the sport,” Smith said.
However, he didn’t specifically apologize to Ohtani or the Asian community in the video.
And that apparently led to the formal, written apology he issued later in the day.
“In this day and age, with all the violence being perpetrated against the Asian-American community my comments — albeit unintentional — were clearly insensitive and regrettable,” Smith wrote.
If there was any question about whether or not the issue could then be considered closed, Smith made sure of it in his closing words — promising to address his comments “more extensively” on Tuesday morning’s edition of “First Take.”
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