Enough of the Xenophobia!
What makes sports beautiful is that sports are for everyone the world over. We’ve overcome discrimination based on race, sex, gender and nationality. However, it’s incredibly disappointing when I see prominent voices in sports journalism continue to propagate xenophobic opinions to justify why a certifiable star can’t actually be a star. Even more shocking is that both examples happened in the span of just one week!
I’ll talk about ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith first. Stephen A. is no stranger to controversy is certainly has plenty of experience taking lots of criticism about opinions he has on his shows, namely First Take. However, when he went on the air and said that MLB and Japanese baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani couldn’t be the face of baseball because he needs a translator is beyond ridiculous. Honestly, just saying that would’ve gotten anyone other than ESPN’s busiest employee fired. It’s shocking how, in 2021, there are still people who willingly espouse these beliefs that just because someone can’t speak English well that they can’t represent something. Sure, Shohei Ohtani has difficulty speaking English and sure he needs a translator, but last time I checked, you don’t need to speak English to excel at the game of baseball.
Now, let’s talk about Emmanuel Acho. Acho is a former NFL linebacker who was born in Dallas, Texas to Nigerian immigrants. He criticized Giannis Antetokounmpo, the newly crowned NBA Champion and Finals MVP and said he couldn’t be the face of basketball because he’s “not relatable.” Are. You. Serious? Not only is Giannis fully capable of being the face of basketball, but he is the nicest, most down-to-earth superstar you could ever meet. Also, his origin story of going from selling trinkets in the streets of Athens to NBA MVP and NBA Champion is the most inspiring origin story the NBA could ever ask for. Ironically, Antetokounmpo is also the child of Nigerian immigrants, like Acho, which lends a bit of irony to this story, since Acho brought it up on FS1’s Speak for Yourself as a way of backing up his claim that Giannis isn’t relatable because we don’t know where he came from as if I didn’t just tell you that story.
Anyway, I’m furious that sports journalism giants like ESPN and Fox Sports greenlight this kind of inflammatory rhetoric, which only serves to pit people from around the world against each other instead of appreciating one another. Stephen A. did go on First Take and express regret for what he said but Acho hasn’t had the opportunity yet (he made his comments on the same day I’m writing this). Hopefully, he recognizes the error he made and rights it.