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Stephen A’s “Worst Take” Deals Blow to ESPN Brand

Shohei Ohtani by Shinya Suzuki is licensed under CC BY ND-2.0

Stephen A’s “Worst Take” Deals Blow to ESPN Brand

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Stephen A. Smith recently went off on how MLB’s new superstar Shohei Ohtani needing a translator is bad for the sport.

Here’s the original quote from Smith during his segment on ESPN’s First Take:

But 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.”

Smith continued to double-down on the subject, adding:

“If Bryce Harper was doing what Ohtani is doing, we might be talking about baseball five days a week….I haven’t watched a single Angels game all season, but when Barry Bonds was smacking home runs, or Mark McGwire, I was transfixed on the tube.” 

Here’s a video of both segments:

And just in case you really needed another piece of evidence as to why this take is so nuclearly terrible, here’s Stephen A’s FIRST apology.

Stephen A. Smith’s contention that Shohei Ohtani‘ cannot be the face of Major League Baseball because he cannot speak English is maybe the worst take of all time. Nearly twenty years ago, another Japanese ballplayer proved Smith wrong when Ichiro Suzuki turned the game on its ear. Baseball has always had players at the top of the game who didn’t speak English, and it has never been an issue.

In fact, Ichiro has addressed this exact point in the past. “We have to connect to our fans through the media, and when you talk about that, it’s got to come from your heart. And when it comes from your heart, it has to be absolutely consistent. There’s a big risk you take without an interpreter because, as professional baseball players, we are here to perform baseball, not to learn a language.”

That’s just debunking the take at face value. But what’s at the heart of this is worse.

Saying that Ohtani, who has taken the game by storm, cannot be the face of baseball because of a language barrier is racist, xenophobic, and flat-out stupid. When a player like Ohtani who is a star on the mound and a phenom at the plate comes into the league, no one cares about their press conferences. No one cares about their verbal skills. Instead, anyone with eyes will tell you that Ohtani’s bat speed is something to behold and that his easy swing is something out of a Renaissance painting. It’s the perfect mixture of brutality and grace – it’s powerful and dignified.

If anything, Ohtani’s presence in the game is the epitome of “speak softly and carry a big stick.” But, in reality, Ohtani’s one of the more communicative players in the game. He’s expressive at the dish, in the dugout, and even on the basepaths. I mean, what other player has waved goodbye to a baseball hit by a teammate? Or even laughed with a pitcher who surprised him with a funky delivery?

ESPN just hasn’t been on their game lately with regards to dealing with race internally, and this is just another example of how terrible these takes can be. Maybe, after taking a look at his three failed apologies, ESPN might realize that having Stephen A. Smith as the face of their network, might not be a good idea for their brand. Especially if he keeps spreading absolute nonsense like this without impunity.

Stephen A. Smith’s show is called First Take, but here’s hoping it’s his Last Take.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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