ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith apologized on Monday after he faced backlash for comments he made regarding Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani on ESPN's First Take earlier the same day.
"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."
While speaking on Ohtani, who will make history this week competing in the Home Run derby, leading off and starting on the mound for the American League in the All Star Game, Smith made comments regarding his marketability.
Ohtani is Japanese and can speak English, but feels most comfortable using an interpreter. Smith made the argument that this hurt Ohtani's case in being the face of MLB.
"But 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 number one face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying, in this country," Smith said.
He continued by arguing that because Ohtani uses an interpreter, he's not being talked about as much as an American superstar would.
"If this was Bryce Harper what would we be doing? We might be talking about baseball five days a week," Smith said.
After the initial outrage online, Smith fought back and referenced a Sports Illustrated article on Ohtani and his interpreter and that role's significance.
"People are misinterpreting what I'm saying, I'm not talking about the state of the game," he said. "I'm talking about the marketability and the promotion of the sport—is exactly what Sports Illustrated essentially alluded to in their article last month when they talked about 28% of the players in Major League Baseball are foreign players."
"If you are a sport trying to ingratiate yourself with 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," Smith said
After posting the video explaining his argument, he continued.
"Amazing that folks still don't know me after all these years," Smith said in a Tweet. "If I'm wrong about something, I will apologize. Especially if I unintentionally offended any group of people — because it's the right thing to do. Period! I'm Black. I would know!"
In his written apology, Smith said he'd reiterate his regret Tuesday morning during First Take.
"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 wrote. "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."