Stephen A. Smith apologizes after doubling down on idiotic take about Shohei Ohtani using interpreter to speak with media

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Stephen A. Smith’s take is a bad one.

The ESPN broadcaster and analyst who co-stars on “First Take” with Max Kellerman said on Monday that it wasn’t a good look that MLB’s biggest star, Shohei Ohtani, is a player who uses a translator. No matter which way you frame it, it’s exactly in line with every other tired and racist “speak English in America” comment that’s been made.

“I understand that baseball is an international sport itself in terms of participation,” Smith said on the show Wednesday, “but when you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube, or to the ballpark, to actually watch you, OK, 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 in this country.”

After receiving considerable and obvious backlash, Smith then took to his personal social media feed to explain his thoughts further. Even his fellow colleagues at ESPN refuted his claim. “Perhaps we shouldn’t ask the most multitalented player in recorded baseball history to cut up lil morsels of English soundbites and make airplane noises while spoonfeeding them to us too,” Pablo Torre, who hosts the “ESPN Daily Podcast,” wrote. And ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes quote tweeted information on Ohtani’s appearances at the All-Star festivities with, “Gonna go ahead and say this translates in any language.”

All the pushback finally got to him, it appears. Late Monday, he posted an apology after initially doubling down. “I screwed up,” he wrote. “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.”

Baseball has a youth problem; we all know this. What baseball does not have is a language problem. And when Smith doubled down, he simultaneously claimed that he was just concerned for baseball’s marketing while also saying he didn’t watch Ohtani like he watched Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire.

“Baseball’s a great game, a great sport, and some of the greatest players in the world are foreign players. (Fernando Tatis Jr.) comes to my mind, I love this brother, what he brings to the table and Ohtani is the second coming of Babe Ruth OK. That’s not what I was trying to say,” Smith said in video posted to Twitter after the show. “I’m talking about the marketability and the promotion of the sport is exactly what Sports Illustrated essentially alluded to in an article last month when he talked about 28% of the players in Major League Baseball are foreign players.

“A lot of them need translators, you know Spanish, it could be Mandarin, Japanese, the list goes on and on and on,” Smith continued. “If you are a sport trying to ingratiate yourself at the American public, the way Major League Baseball is because of the problems that you’ve been having to deal with in terms of improving the attractiveness of the sport. It helps if you spoke the English language, it doesn’t mean anything more than that. ... 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 going to make it that much easier, less challenging to promote the sport.”

No, Stephen A. We knew exactly what you were trying to say. Coming from a young reporter, whose family came to this country as native Spanish speakers and native Tagalog speakers, you’re still wrong. My family, not knowing English, fell in love with baseball and MLB despite its own language barrier in this country.

Last time I checked, when you watch baseball on “the tube” or “the ballpark,” you go to watch the game. Not a sit down fireside chat.

Furthermore, athletes whose first language is not English have historically preferred communicating with media via an interpreter to make sure their message is conveyed properly.

The problem in baseball is small-minded people who make comments about phenomenal players not speaking English — which by the way, Ohtani has been practicing his English and his Spanish to better communicate around the clubhouse.

Did anyone think twice about flocking to Yankee Stadium last week just to watch Ohtani and the Angels play there (against the struggling Yankees) just because English is not his first language? Absolutely not. What about Ichiro Suzuki as a Seattle Mariner, Miami Marlin or Yankee? Hell no. And Masahiro Tanaka? How about Hideki Matsui? You get the point.

And for the record, the United States doesn’t have an official language set by the federal government.

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