Stephen A. Smith opened his mouth and inserted his foot when he made racist comments about Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani, who is Japanese.
This now begs the question: Does ESPN have a problem dealing with its internal racial issues?
Stephen A. Smith says Shohei Ohtani isn’t good for baseball
Shohei Ohtani is a baseball phenom. He not only leads Major League Baseball with 33 home runs but also has a 3.49 ERA on the mound.
Instead of celebrating those accomplishments, Smith said he thought Ohtani was bad for the game. Why? Because Ohtani uses 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 episode of 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.”
Although Shohei isn’t fluent in English, he can speak it and also knows Spanish, according to USA Today.
Not only is Smith wrong, but what he said can be interpreted as a racist or xenophobic comment.
The fallout from Rachel Nichols’ comments
It may be time for ESPN to address the elephant in the room, which is that they have a problem with racism among the ranks.
The Rachel Nichols story was the tip of the iceberg when it comes to race relations at ESPN. The company clearly doesn’t have a consistent policy when it comes to comments like this or dealing with Stephen A. Smith’s remarks.
ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro addressed the Nichols comments in a memo sent to ESPN employees, part of which can be seen below, though Deadline reported that many of his comments were prepared prior to the release of the New York Times story that made Nichols’ comments public:
“I do want to be clear on one thing: Maria Taylor was selected as NBA Countdown host last year because she earned it. Please know our commitment is that assignments and opportunities at ESPN are based on merit and any concerns, remarks, or inferences that suggest otherwise have been and will continue to be addressed.”
Either Pitaro knew the article was coming or had heard rumblings around the office that Nichols wasn’t pleased.
Smith apologizes to the Asian community
The rules at ESPN don’t seem to apply to everyone, or else Nichols and Smith would both have been fired or at least suspended by now.
Nichols was at least taken off the sidelines for the NBA Finals, but that was it. More than likely, nothing will happen to Smith either other than maybe a forced apology, but he continues to work as well.
In fact, Smith did offer an apology on First Take to Ohtani and the Asian community, per NBC News, but it only came after it was clear that no one was buying his first explanation.
“As an African American, keenly aware of the damage stereotyping has done to many in this country, it should’ve elevated my sensitivities even more.”
“I screwed up,” he added. “In this day and age, with all the violence being perpetrated against the Asian community, my comments — albeit unintentional — were clearly insensitive and regrettable.”
Even with Smith’s apology, how many more of these incidents must take place before ESPN takes some kind of action to let fans, players, and employees know that this kind of talk and behavior is unacceptable?