Stephen A. Smith was the talk of the sports world for all the wrong reasons on Monday, and hours after he sparked outrage on First Take over thoughts about Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim superstar Shohei Ohtani the ESPN personality issued a formal apology on social media.
Smith appeared on camera Monday and bemoaned that Ohtani — who leads the majors in home runs while also being a superstar pitcher for the Angels — is becoming the face of Major League Baseball in spite of the fact that he communicates to English-speaking press using a translator. It was a shockingly xenophobic take to hear in a sports conversation, especially about a clear superstar who is quite literally making baseball a more popular and exciting sport with each swing and pitch.
In the initial outrage, Smith tried to clarify his words and defend his statements as not insensitive and xenophobic. Later Monday night, however, Smith posted a message to Twitter saying “I’m sincerely sorry” and detailing how he needed to apologize before
“As an African-American, keenly aware of the damage stereotyping has done to many in this community, it should’ve elevated my sensitivities even more,” Smith wrote in part. “Based on my words, I failed in that regard and it’s on me, and me alone.”
Smith noted the uptick in violence against Asian-Americans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and dangerous rhetoric from political figures in recent months. He also apologized to Ohtani specifically, making it clear to say “I screwed up” and apologizing several times. Smith also said he plans to readdress his comments on Tuesday’s edition of First Take.
Hopefully when that’s done, he can help the show address Ohtani’s Home Run Derby performance and the excitement behind the All-Star starting on the mound and leading off in the showcase in Denver. One of Smith’s big points in his misguided rant on Monday is that his own show doesn’t talk about Ohtani too often. But after an apology, that would certainly be a good place to start.