ESPN's Stephen A. Smith: MLB stars speaking English will make it easier to promote the sport

5 mins read

ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith came under fire Monday after he said Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani speaking through an interpreter was hurting Major League Baseball.

Smith responded to the criticism in a separate Twitter video after comments he made on “First Take” about Ohtani speaking through a translator.


Instead of outright apologizing, Smith tried to clarify his comments. Smith said MLB stars being able to speak English would help the league promote and market the sport better.

“My segment on Ohtani this morning on ‘First Take,’ people are misinterpreting what I’m saying. I’m not talking about the state of the game. Baseball itself. Baseball is a great game, a great sport. Some of the greatest players in the world are foreign players. [Fernando Tatis Jr.] comes to my mind. I love this brother and what he brings to the table. And Ohtani is the second coming of Babe Ruth, OK. That’s not what I was trying to say,” Smith started.

“I’m talking about the marketability and the promotion of the sport. It’s exactly what Sports Illustrated essentially alluded to in their article last month when they talked about 28% of the players in Major League Baseball are foreign players. A lot of them need translators. You know, Spanish, it could be Mandarin, Japanese, the list goes on and on and on.

“If you are a sport trying to ingratiate yourself with the American public the way Major League Baseball is because of the problems that you’ve been having to deal with in terms of proving the attractiveness of the sport it helps if you spoke the English language. It doesn’t mean anything more than that.”


Smith pointed out that baseball’s audience skews older than some of its competition like the NBA and NFL in the U.S. and that Ohtani was only the focus of the conversation because of how well he’s performing in baseball right now.

“We know that it is an international sport. We know that that’s great and baseball having the global appeal that it is, fine. But in the United States, all I was saying is that when you’re a superstar, if you can speak the English language then guess what, that’s gonna make it that much easier and less challenging to promote the sport. That’s all I was saying about anybody.”

Smith then alluded to an apology in a subsequent tweet, but those refreshing his Twitter feed will have to tune into his show to get it instead.

“Amazing that folks still don’t know me after all these years. If I am wrong about something, I will apologize. Especially if I unintentionally offend ANY GROUP of people — because it’s the right thing to do. Period! I’m BLACK. I would know! See y’all tomorrow on @FirstTake,” he tweeted.

In his segment earlier Monday, Smith said part of baseball’s problem with its marketability was that its stars, like Ohtani, have to speak through an interpreter.

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

Smith added that stars with interpreters “compromises the ability for them to ingratiate themselves with the American public which is what we’re really talking about.”


MLB nor the MLBPA responded to Fox News’ request for comment.

The Angels declined to comment.

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