Stephen A. Smith opens Tuesday’s ‘First Take’ with apology for Shohei Ohtani comments

A day after his comments about 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 go off about minorities being marginalized in this nation.”

Smith said MLB could not properly market Ohtani because he chooses to do the majority of English interviews through an interpreter.

“The fact that you got a foreign player that doesn’t speak English, believe it or not, I think contributes to harming the game to some degree, when that’s your box office appeal,” Smith said during Monday’s “First Take.” “It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. And unfortunately at this point in time, that’s not the case.

“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 No. 1 face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying, in this country. And that’s what I’m trying to say.”

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith opened Tuesday's "First Take" by apologizing for his comments about Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith opened Tuesday’s “First Take” by apologizing for his comments about Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani.

A few hours after the comments went viral, Smith posted a two-minute video standing by what he said. People were misinterpreting his words, he said.

By Monday night, however, Smith had issued a full-fledged, written apology.

“In this day and age, with all the violence being perpetrated against the Asian-American community my comments — albeit unintentional — were clearly insensitive and regrettable,” Smith wrote.

On Tuesday, Smith also briefly apologized for previously mispronouncing the names of Nigerian men’s basketball team members after they defeated Team USA over the weekend. Smith said he was trying to be comical.

“First Take” invited ESPN baseball reporter Jeff Passan to join the show, as well as staff writer Joon Lee, to hold conversations with Smith about his comments. In addition to apologizing to the Asian community and Ohtani himself, he said sorry to ESPN and parent company Walt Disney Co.

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stephen A. Smith apologizes for Shohei Ohtani ‘interpreter’ remarks

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