Stephen A. Smith ‘sincerely sorry’ for xenophobic comments about Asian baseball player

On Monday's "First Take," Smith criticized the Los Angeles Angels' Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani for needing an interpreter.

Veteran ESPN host Stephen A. Smith offered up an apology Monday after making xenophobic remarks about Japan-born baseball star Shohei Ohtani. On his earlier show, First Take, which is set up as a head-to-head conversation between Smith and Max Kellerman, Smith criticized the 27-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher for needing an interpreter. 

“When you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark to actually watch you,” Smith said, “I don’t think it helps that the number-one face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying.”

ESPN host Stephen A. Smith (left) offered up an apology Monday after making xenophobic remarks about Japan-born Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani (right). (Photos by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN and Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Even after pushback, he positing that if Ohtani were white, he would be drawing more press. “If this was Bryce Harper, what would be doing?” Smith wondered aloud. “We might be talking about baseball five days a week.” 

“Those home runs are doing plenty of talking for me,” Smith’s First Take co-star Molly Qerim Rose said of Ohtani. “And I’m sure he’s trying.” 

“Really, Molly, you sure?” Smith responds. 

“That he’s trying to learn English?” Rose says. “I’m sure he is. It’s very difficult to learn a second language.” 

Stephen A. Smith goes on to insinuate that viewership of Angels games are down because of Ohtani’s language barrier. 

The sportscaster later went on Twitter to post a short video “clarification.”

In it, he said people were “misinterpreting” what he was saying. He called Ohtani “the second coming of Babe Ruth,” but asserted the fact that 28% of MLB players are foreign-born and that their marketability — and that of the sport of baseball — is suffering because their star players don’t speak English. 

Smith’s apology was not well received and was deemed just as cringe-worthy as the original offense. He later again took to social media to clarify and apologize.  

“Let me apologize right now,” Smith wrote. “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 so many in this country, it should’ve elevated my sensitivities even more.”

“In this day and age, with all the violence being perpetrated against the Asian Community, my comments — albeit unintentional — were clearly insensitive and regrettable,” Smith concluded. “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.”

The opinionated commentator is no stranger to saying he’s sorry.

In 2014, Smith apologized to his own mother, his female family members — “who know I know better,” he said — and victims of physical abuse once he suggested women were to blame for domestic violence in the wake of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s suspension from the NFL after assaulting his then-girlfriend. 

“You all deserved a better professional and quite frankly a better man last Friday sitting here on this very set, in this very chair,” Smith said. “My heartfelt apologies to each and every single one of you.”

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