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Friday, July 16, 2021

Stephen A. Smith opens Tuesday’s ‘First Take’ with apology for Shohei Ohtani comments

A day after his comments about Los Angeles Angels and MLB All-Star Shohei Ohtani sparked outrage, Stephen A. Smith opened “First Take” on ESPN Tuesday with an apology.

“Let me be the first to stand up and say that I want to express my sincere apologies to the Asian community and the Asian-American community,” Smith said. “I am a Black man. I religiously go off about minorities being marginalized in this nation.”

Smith said MLB could not properly market Ohtani because he chooses to do the majority of English interviews through an interpreter.

“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 during Monday’s “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.

“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. And that’s what I’m trying to say.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 16, 2021 at 07:10 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: shoehi ohtani

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   1. Jeff Francoeur's OPS Posted: July 17, 2021 at 08:26 AM (#6029379)
Publicity stunt, imo, and Jeff Passan's preachy act was laughable.
   2. JJ1986 Posted: July 17, 2021 at 09:10 AM (#6029381)
Until the response is to shrug and ignore it, people will keep getting on tv and saying offensive things just to get more attention.
   3. Rough Carrigan Posted: July 17, 2021 at 10:20 AM (#6029384)
The fact that Stephen A. Smith's career on TV has lasted this long is dismaying.
   4. John Northey Posted: July 17, 2021 at 01:50 PM (#6029403)
Sad. Up here in Canada the #1 star is Vlad of course and he does interviews through an interpreter even though we all can tell he understands English (just watch him on the bench laughing and talking with everyone - can't imagine everyone speaks Spanish). I suspect for him and Ohtani and others that they use the interpreter as a filter to avoid saying something stupid that could get them in deep trouble. An interview will almost never add to a players marketing of themselves (with very rare exceptions) but can easily cause them to fall from grace. One ex-Jay had homophobic comments written on his eye black and it was a big deal here and helped push him out of Toronto for example. Not hard to imagine Ohtani or Vlad saying something sexist or homophobic given they are athletes and we all know how bad locker rooms are for those types of comments. Not hard to let it slip if you are not strong in the language. Given both are building brands quite effectively right now they'd be fools to risk it just to do an interview in English. Instead do TV ads, have products with your face on them, etc.

I expect both to get massive long term deals soon (as a Jays fan I'd love to see Vlad signed for a decade as that would 'just' take him to age 32, same for Bo Bichette - the two of them are great fun to watch play everyday). Of course, how do you price Ohtani with his pitching and hitting and the added risk due to that? Even Babe Ruth only did both regularly for 2 seasons (200+ PA, 100+ IP, heck his peak after those 2 years was 9 IP in any season). Ohtani has yet to reach 100 IP in a season - he should this year, but just 51 2/3 as a rookie and just 1 2/3 in the two years after that due to needing TJ surgery.
   5. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 17, 2021 at 02:22 PM (#6029404)
The vast majority of on-air talent at ESPN would face something between an on-air suspension and being fired for saying what Smith said this week.

Also, I find it a little odd that the only two players Smith listed as examples of more ideal "faces" of baseball were Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

Trout may still be the best player in the game, and he plays in Los Angeles, so I can see the idea behind it...but a) he's injured enough that it is becoming a problem, b) none of my non-rabid sports fan friends and colleagues know who Trout even is, and c) he is an incredibly boring personality, at least in the way I presume Smith would mean it. I think MLB would love it if Trout were one of the primary faces of the game, but his personality just doesn't work for that role.

Harper is a more peculiar name drop by Smith, and makes me think there is an implicit race-related element to what he is saying. Harper is very, very good, but does Smith think it is still 2015? Why would Smith mention Harper, instead of...

Mookie Betts - who is a better player, is in LA, and has won championships? He is also a better, more marketable name and personality, and at a time when the sports seems to be really struggling to generate interest in the Black community, would be an obvious example of the more diverse base of players the sport aspires to reach.

Fernando Tatis Jr - who is also a better player, and is the definition of energy and charisma. He, as much as anybody in baseball, is a guy that if he is up, you stop what you're doing to watch his next plate appearance. What a young, exciting, charismatic player.

Vlad Jr - A little like Tatis, in that he is so young, so good, and so compelling to watch, but for somewhat different reasons. He may be the best player in baseball, and is such an imposing physical presence, that (like Tatis) you just stop and watch him. You add the fact he is the son of an incredibly compelling Hall of Fame player with the same exact name (and a very cool name, to boot), and it is a no-brainer.

And, of course, Ohtani, who is a wonderful player, does something nobody has done in a century, and is (like several of the guys above) a good-looking, young, million-dollar smile guy in a major media market. The fact he is Asian is a plus, not a minus - the fastest-growing segment of the population in the U.S. is Asian-Americans. Baseball is in the best position of the four major North American team sports to connect with Asian Americans, given the popularity of baseball throughout much of Asia already. This is a no brainer!

If somebody besides Smith had said this, they'd probably be gone from the network in some form. And if Smith said this about a Latino or Spanish-speaking player, he'd also be in more trouble today. But a Japanese player, insulted by Smith? We're just moving on, I guess...
   6. Mildred Lindsey Posted: July 28, 2021 at 06:00 AM (#6030853)
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   7. Mildred Lindsey Posted: July 28, 2021 at 06:01 AM (#6030854)
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