Someone tell Stephen A. Smith it’s a mistake to bow to the Twitter mob. Never do it.
Smith, the $12-million-a-year ESPN broadcaster, issued an apology yesterday for no good reason. Twitter pretended that Smith offended Asians when he pointed out that baseball star Shohei Ohtani isn’t the ideal marketing face for Major League Baseball because his English is so poor that he speaks through an interpreter.
On his ESPN debate show, “First Take,” Smith told co-host Max Kellerman this:
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.
This is not a remotely new or controversial sentiment. Smith wasn’t disparaging Ohtani. He was making a factual point about what’s undermining the popularity of Major League Baseball in America.
Regretfully, I have experience when it comes to disparaging Asian professional athletes. Nearly a decade ago, at the peak of NBA player Jeremy Lin-sanity, I tweeted an inappropriate joke about Lin. I wrote and delivered a sincere apology for disparaging Lin and diminishing an important moment for Asian sports fans.
I have zero problem with admitting a mistake and apologizing when I’ve done something wrong. Smith didn’t do anything wrong.