The fun never stops at ESPN

Stephen A. Smith is a controversialist for ESPN. He shouts out his takes on sports-related issues, for which, reportedly, he is paid around $12 million a year. Nice work if you can get it.

Smith came under fire for opining that Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese pitching, slugging, and baserunning sensation, will have trouble being the face of baseball because he doesn’t speak English. Smith said:

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.

Later, Smith added:

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 improving the attractiveness of the sport, it helps if you spoke the English language.

Is this an accurate assessment of Ohtani’s ability to help promote baseball to the max? I don’t know. Is it a plausible one? I think so.

Is it racist? Of course not. The same statements would apply to a Finnish sensation who doesn’t speak English.

Smith, though, promptly became a target of the mindlessly woke. Clinton Yates tweeted that “speaking English is not a requirement to be a tremendous anything, never mind baseball player.”

But Smith didn’t say that speaking English had anything to do with Ohtani’s quality as a baseball player. And speaking English is a requirement for appearing in widely-effective ads and promos that involve more than a few words.

Someone called Joan Lee, who was born in Korea, wrote:

Telling anyone — let alone a generational, one-in-a-lifetime baseball talent who’s currently doing something completely unprecedented — to just ‘learn English’ completely underestimates and devalues the difficulty of immigrating to the United States.

But as far as I can determine, Smith didn’t tell Ohtani to learn English. Nor did he opine on the difficulties of doing so.

Smith said nothing he needed to apologize for. But, of course, he apologized anyway. He said:

The reality of the situation is that you have Asians and Asian Americans out there that obviously were very, very offended by what I had to say yesterday, and I just want to look into the camera and extend my sincere apologies.

Were more than a handful of Asians and Asian Americans really “very offended” by Smith’s comments? I hope not. I hope it was mainly just “professional” Asian Americans — those who bring attention to themselves by denouncing perceived slights and microaggressions — who were offended at all.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.