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We should believe Shohei Ohtani. (Op-Ed)

Shohei Ohtani is a Japanese professional baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers who is rarely seen without his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. He is a rather elusive person, but his status in Japan allows the Dodgers to receive countless sponsorships. Ohtani requires a translator, as his native language is Japanese. Mizuhara was more than just an interpreter for Ohtani, but also a friend.

Now, Ohtani has accused Mizuhara of stealing $4.5 million to pay off his gambling debts. Last week, while the Dodgers were in South Korea, ESPN reported that Ohtani’s name was on two outgoing wire transfers worth $1 million to an illegal bookmaking operation in Southern California. Ohtani’s American lawyers said, “In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.” 

Mizuhara was far more than a business partner, but a true friend. The two were rarely seen apart. Imagine if your best friend sold you out and put your entire career in jeopardy, while also actively stealing from you. How would you feel? “To summarize how I’m feeling right now, I’m just beyond shock,” Ohtani said during an appearance before the media Monday, his notes written in Japanese, “It’s really hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point.” He confirms that he has never gambled on sports.

We need to be cognizant that Ohtani is not fluent in English. It is easy for someone who you rely on, especially a translator, to take advantage of you. The most marketable player in the MLB is in the middle of a scandal, and we owe it to him to listen with an open mind.

Ohtani was not aware of the wire transfers until after Mizuhara told other players that he agreed to pay off his interpreter’s debts. It is convenient for a translator to say something completely false in this manner, and his client is virtually unable to defend himself because he does not speak the language fluently. We owe it to Ohtani to listen to his side of the story. We must be worthy advocates and show empathy for a man who has not only lost millions but also his best friend, and possibly his career.

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