By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – ESPN pundit Stephen A. Smith issued an apology Monday afternoon after criticizing Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani for not speaking English.

Shohei Ohtani of the Angels (wearing #44 in honor of Hank Aaron) waves during the 2021 Home Run Derby at Coors Field on July 12, 2021 in Denver, Colo. (Getty Images)

Speaking on the show “First Take” Monday morning, Smith indicated that Ohtani, who is Japanese, would have a wider appeal if he learned English.

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“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 to some degree, when that’s your box-office appeal,” Smith said. “It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. Unfortunately, at this moment in time, that’s not the case.”

Later Monday, Smith issued the following apology via Twitter:

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“Let me apologize right now. As I’m watching things unfold, let me say that I never intended to offend any community, particularly the Asian community, and especially Shohei Ohtani, himself. 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. Based on my words, I failed in that regard and it’s on me, and me alone! Ohtani is one of the brightest stars in all of sports. He is making a difference, as it pertains to inclusiveness and leadership. I should have embraced that in my comments. Instead, I screwed up. In this day and age, with all the violence being perpetrated against the Asian community, my comments — albeit unintentional — were clearly insensitive and regrettable. There’s simply no other way to put it. I’m sincerely sorry for any angst I’ve caused with my comments on First Take this morning. Again, I am sorry. And I’ll happily reiterate these words more extensively tomrrow morning, as well.”

The 27-year-old Ohtani leads the majors in home runs this season with 33. In Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, he’ll be both the starting pitcher and the leadoff hitter for the American League team.

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He is the first player in Major League Baseball history to be selected to an All-Star team as both a hitter and pitcher, according to CBS Sports.