ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith apologized to the Asian community Monday after he criticized Major League Baseball's leading home run hitter for speaking through the use of an interpreter.
"Let me apologize right now. 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," read the statement.
Smith had criticized Ohtani, who plays for the Los Angeles Angels and leads the majors with 33 home runs, for not speaking English and choosing his native Japanese instead.
"The fact that you got a foreign player that doesn't speak English, believe it or not, I think contributes to harming the game to some degree, when that's your box office appeal," Smith said Monday during his show "First Take."
"It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. And unfortunately at this point in time, that's not the case," he added.
"When you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube, or to the ballpark, to actually watch you, 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, in this country," Smith continued.
Smith faced immediate blowback online, where many called his statement racist and xenophobic. He responded by offering a video on Twitter to clarify his comments.
"In the United States, all I was saying is that when you're a superstar if you can speak the English language, then guess what, that's gonna be easier, less challenging, to promote the sport. That's all I was saying about anybody," Smith said in the video.
That apparently was not enough for his critics because he offered the second statement with a full apology hours later.
"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 that's on me, and me alone!" he continued.
"In this day and age, with all the violence being perpetrated against the Asian Community, my comments — albeit unintentional — were clearly insensitive and regrettable. I'm sincerely sorry for any angst I've caused with my comments," Smith said.
Ohtani will be the American League's starting pitcher and bat leadoff as the designated hitter in MLB's annual All-Star Game Tuesday night at Coors Field in Denver.
Here's more about the online furor against Smith:
Stephen A. Smith racist comment about Shohei Ohtani | New York Post www.youtube.com