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Oh, Ohtani! Gambling Scandal Has High Comms Stakes

From our colleague, Tom Weidlich, at PRCG | Haggerty…

One of the biggest crises currently rocking the sports world — the gambling scandal swirling around Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani — raises all sorts of tawdry communications issues with all sorts of important communications lessons. Not the least of those lessons arises from a presser Ohtani himself held.

On Tue., March 19, when the Dodgers were in South Korea to open their season (against the San Diego Padres), Ippei Mizuhara, longtime interpreter and friend of Japan native Ohtani, gave a 90-minute interview to ESPN. Ohtani apparently didn’t know about it, but his spokesman did.

In the interview, Mizuhara claimed that Ohtani had covered $4.5 million in gambling debts the interpreter owed to a California-based bookmaker. Sports gambling remains illegal in California, and Mizuhara (who said he didn’t bet on baseball) and the bookmaker are reportedly under federal investigation. Sports gambling, though accepted in many corners of the sports world, is controversial. It’s not surprising this has blown up into such an issue.

‘Massive Theft’

The day after the interview, but before the ESPN article was published, Ohtani’s spokesman (who reportedly was a recently hired crisis communications counselor whom we haven’t seen named) recanted the story and said Ohtani’s law firm would issue a statement. Which it did: “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,” said West Hollywood, California-based Berk Brettler LLP.

After that came out, Mizuhara changed his own story and said Ohtani didn’t know about his gambling debts and hadn’t transferred any money to the bookmaker. Mizuhara was on the Dodgers’ payroll and, that same day, the team fired him. MLB has opened an investigation into the mess.

For the rest, click here.

Photo Credit: DALL-E


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