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#pounditMonday, August 2, 2021

Stephen A. Smith stands by controversial Shohei Ohtani remarks

Shohei Ohtani

Stephen A. Smith was heavily scrutinized on Monday for some comments he made about Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani becoming the face of Major League Baseball. Many demanded an apology, but the ESPN personality is standing by what he said.

Smith said on Monday’s edition of “First Take” that he views it as a problem for MLB that its biggest star does not speak English. Ohtani is from Japan and uses an interpreter when he interacts with the media. Many found Smith’s take to be insensitive, but Smith tried to elaborate in a video he posted on Twitter.

“I’m talking about the marketability and the promotion of the sport. … If you are a sport trying to ingratiate yourself with the American public the way Major League Baseball is, because of the problems you’ve been dealing with in terms of having to improve the attractiveness of the sport, it helps if you speak the English language,” Smith said. “It doesn’t mean anything more than that.”

Smith went on to say that he was alluding to baseball having a significantly older audience than the NBA and other sports.

“In the United States, all I was saying was that if you’re a superstar and can speak the English language then, guess what, it’s going to make it that much easier and less challenging to promote the sport,” he added.

The people who want Smith suspended or worse for his initial take probably won’t appreciate his follow-up, either. The point he was clearly trying to make was that it will be more difficult for fans to relate to a player who doesn’t speak the same language as them. Even some of his own colleagues openly disagreed.

Ohtani will make history again on Tuesday when he becomes the first player to start the All-Star Game as a pitcher and DH. MLB even tweaked a rule to allow him to play more.

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