Stephen A Smith Says People Are ‘Misinterpreting’ His Comments on MLB’s Shohei Ohtani Not Speaking English

ESPN host caught plenty of heat for arguing it’s bad for baseball that the Japanese-born superstar is the sport’s most marketable player because he needs an interpreter

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Stephen A. Smith has attempted to clarify his comments regarding Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese-born star pitcher who happens to lead Major League Baseball in home runs. During a segment on “First Take” on Monday, Smith argued it’s bad for baseball that the main attraction at this week’s All-Star Game needs an interpreter to communicate with American baseball fans.

“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 Monday morning on ESPN’s “First Take.” A few hours later, Smith released a video statement where he didn’t exactly walk those comments back.

“People are misinterpreting what I’m saying… I’m talking about the marketability and promotion of the sport,” he said in the video, which you can view below. “If you are a sport trying to ingratiate yourself with the American public, the way Major League Baseball is, because of the problems you have 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.”

Smith’s comments earlier on Monday went over about as well as you would expect.

Smith is also apparently forgetting that Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui both experienced long and popular careers in the major leagues. Suzuki was even the top vote-getter for the All-Star teams from the fans in many of his prime years with the Seattle Mariners.

Ohtani, who is in his third year with the Los Angeles Angles, leads all of baseball with 33 home runs and boasts a 3.49 earned run average as a pitcher, which is pretty much unheard of in MLB history. He is set to compete in Monday’s home run derby, where he is ranked as the top seed and the consensus favorite to win. Then on Tuesday, Ohtani will be both the starting pitcher for the American League and lead-off as the designated hitter in the AL batting lineup.

ESPN is already reeling from the Rachel Nichols controversy over her comments about Maria Taylor. Unlike Nichols, Smith knew he was being recorded.

Smith has since apologized for his comments. For more on his apology, read here.

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