ESPN’s Smith Backtracks, Apologizes for ‘Inexcusable’ Ohtani Comments — ‘I Screwed Up’

ESPN “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith on Tuesday issued an on-air apology for remarks made the day before regarding Los Angeles Angels star two-way player Shohei Ohtani.

Smith asserted on Monday’s show that Ohtani needing an interpreter “so you can understand what the hell he’s saying” was harmful to Major League Baseball, adding the Japanese-born player could not be the face of the league until he spoke English.

“[I] want to express my sincere apologies to the Asian community and the Asian American community,” Smith said to open the show Tuesday. “I am a black man. I religiously go off about minorities being marginalized in this nation. I instantly go off, repeatedly bring up the fact that if you are a member of a community that feels disenfranchised in any way, that’s something we need to battle, that we need to fend off to the best of our ability as a nation. These are the kind of things that I bring up. And the reason why I bring up my blackness is because of this: On many occasions when I have said, when people have said something that is offensive in any way to the minority community, it’s not about how you feel. It’s about how they feel. And the reality of the situation is that you have Asians and Asian Americans out there that obviously were very, very offended by what I had to say yesterday. And I just want to look into the camera and extend my sincere apologies. That was not my intent at all.”

“I was wrong,” he added. “Period.”

Smith went on to say he was “completely clueless” on the impact his remarks would have on the Asian community.

“I just want people to know here’s where I stand,” the ESPN personality outlined. “The second that I was informed about how hurt a group of people in this nation were off of what I said, that’s all that matters to me. All that matters to me because I don’t intend to hurt people like that. That’s not who I am; that’s not who I’ve ever been. If I have a problem with you, you would know it. If I mean to offend you, you’d know it. I don’t hide from it. I let you know I’m coming. That wasn’t the case yesterday.”

“Nevertheless, it doesn’t negate the fact they were detrimentally affected by my words,” Smith continued. “I have friends from the Asian American community that expressed their disappointment in what I had to say because of all the things I’ve had to deal with. The anti-Asian stuff going on. The Asian hate that’s been percolating in this nation over the last few years — and we all know to some degree why that is — I contributed to that yesterday, and that’s inexcusable.”

Smith also took to Twitter on Monday to acknowledge that he “screwed up.”

Follow Trent Baker on Twitter @MagnifiTrent


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