A day after his comments on the 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 denounce the marginalization of marginalized communities.”
Smith said MLB couldn’t properly market Ohtani as he chooses to do the majority of interviews in English through an interpreter.
“The fact that you have a foreign player who doesn’t speak English, believe it or not, I think that helps to hurt the game to some extent, while that’s your box office appeal,” said Smith in Monday’s “First Take”. “It must be someone like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. And unfortunately, at this point, it’s not.
“When you talk about an audience that gravitates towards the subway or the stadium to watch you, I don’t think it helps that face # 1 is a dude who needs a performer so you can figure out what is going on. ‘it’s saying, in this country. And that’s what I’m trying to say.
Hours after the comments went viral, Smith posted a two-minute video reflecting what he said. People misinterpreted his words, he said.
Monday night, however, Smith had issued a full written apology.
“In our time, with all the violence perpetrated against the Asian-American community, my comments – though unwitting – were clearly callous and regrettable,” Smith wrote.
Smith also briefly apologized on Tuesday for mispronouncing the names of Nigerian basketball team members after beating the United States team over the weekend. Smith said he was trying to be funny.
“First Take” invited ESPN baseball reporter Jeff Passan to join the show, along with writer Joon Lee, to have conversations with Smith about his comments. In addition to apologizing to the Asian community and to Ohtani himself, he apologized to ESPN and parent company Walt Disney Co.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.