The Nigerian basketball team slammed ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Monday after a rant on “First Take” in which he clearly, and seemingly purposefully, butchered their names following their exhibition win over Team USA on Saturday.
That clip marked the second offensive and wild rant the ESPN personality made on Monday, following a xenophobic rant about Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani.
Nigeria upset Team USA 90-87 in Las Vegas on Saturday night, which has led to a lot of very fair criticism. The Americans are favorites to win a Gold medal at the Olympics in Tokyo later this month, and the defeat was only the team’s third exhibition loss since 1992. Team USA gave up 20 3-pointers, too, a stunning figure.
The Nigerian team and many of its players, however, took issue with the way Smith went about his criticism — including the way he pronounced their names.
“There’s no excuse to lose to Nigeria,” Smith said on ESPN before tweeting the clip out himself. “[To lose to] some dude Gabe Nnamdi, who goes by Gabe Vincent for the Miami Heat. Or Caleb Agada. Or Nma ... however the hell you pronounce his name.”
The Nigerian team and many of its players took to Twitter to slam Smith for his take shortly after he posted it.
Nigeria cruised to a dominant 94-71 exhibition win over Argentina on Monday, too.
Smith apologized after wild Ohtani rant
Smith apologized multiple times on Monday night for a take he made about Ohtani.
Smith claimed that Ohtani, who was born in Japan and is perhaps the biggest name in baseball right now, can’t be the face of Major League Baseball because he uses an interpreter.
“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 tried to defend his take initially in a video he posted on Twitter, and then issued a written apology admitting he “screwed up.”
“Let me apologize right now,” he wrote, in part. “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. ... 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.”
All in all, it was a tough day for Smith.
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