ESPN host Stephen A Smith under fire for rant about Japanese pro baseball player

ESPN host under fire for rant about Japanese baseball player using an interpreter

ESPN host Stephen A Smith has come under fire after he ranted about Japanese pro baseball player Shohei Ohtani and his use of an interpreter when speaking to the media.

Mr Ohtani is the most successful two-way player in decades, leading the majors with 33 home runs, USA Today writes.

But Mr Smith said that Mr Ohtani can’t be the face of baseball because he prefers to speak to the media through an interpreter. Mr Ohtani can speak English but isn’t fluent. He also knows Spanish.

“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,” Mr Smith said on Monday. “It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. And unfortunately at this point in time, that’s not the case.”

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Mr Ohtani is 27 years old and came to the US in 2017 after signing on with the LA Angels.

“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 number one face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying, in this country,” Mr Smith said. “And that’s what I’m trying to say.”

After mentioning former NBA players Manu Ginobili, who is from Argentina, and Dirk Nowitzki, who is from Germany, Mr Smith added: “For some reason, in Major League Baseball, you got these guys who need those interpreters, and I think that compromises the ability for them to ingratiate themselves with the American public, which is what we’re really talking about.”

Co-host Max Kellerman pushed back a little on Mr Smith’s comments.

“It’s not about ‘Ohtani’s not from here,’ that’s the issue. If your point is, ‘He’s got to learn English,’ I agree with that. I think the language barrier in every sport, not just baseball, it’s useful to learn the native tongue of the vast majority of most Americans,” he said.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Mr Smith responded.

Moderator Molly Qerim Rose added: “Those home runs are doing plenty of talking for me. It is very difficult to learn a second language. I’m sure he’s trying.”

Fans took to Twitter to criticise Mr Smith.

“Stephen A Smith saying that Shohei Ohtani, responsible for the 10 highest viewed regular season games this year and what will likely be the most watched HRD ever, shouldn’t be considered a face of baseball because he needs an interpreter. Kindly piss off,” one account holder said.

Another added: “dude wtf… this is not ok. how are more people not talking about Stephen A. Smith saying “in this country” it’s bad for the sport to have the face be a guy who ‘needs an interpreter to understand what the hell he’s saying’.”

“I put up with Stephen A Smith most of the time but this is disgusting. We are really shaming people for not speaking English? Do you know how hard it is to learn another language? While ALSO playing professional baseball in a different country,” a third said.

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