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[NOTES on a SCORECARD] Japanese Media Should Not Let Shohei Ohtani Muscle Them

After NTV and Fuji TV reported the location of his new home in California, Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani has refused to do interviews with the networks.

Something interesting made the news recently. Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Shohei Ohtani and his management team decided to issue a "ban" on Japanese television stations NTV and Fuji TV over perceived infringing on the superstar's privacy, meaning they would not be getting any interviews with him.

Ohtani's people were apparently upset that the news outlets had revealed the location of his new home in the La Canada Flintridge area of Southern California, and also his plans to build a house in a planned community on the big island of Hawaii.

As the story goes, the TV stations were alleged to have taken photos of the home in the San Gabriel Valley, flown a drone over it, and interviewed neighbors about the new resident in the area.

Understandably, one could be irritated by such conduct. However, the reality is that when you are the biggest star in the city of Los Angeles, who is in the first season of a record-breaking $700 million USD (¥110 billion JPY) contract, your privacy is going to be very limited.

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani bats in the third inning against the Colorado Rockies on June 18 at Dodger Stadium. (KYODO)

The Los Angeles Times Landed the Shohei Ohtani Scoop

The compelling note in this saga is that the purchase of the home in Southern California was first reported not by a Japanese media company, but by the Los Angeles Times. Its real estate section was contacted by a source about the transaction and the newspaper confirmed the purchase of the house by an LLC managed by Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, through public records.

Why, some would ask, would the LA Times do this?

The answer is simple ― it's news.

If Ohtani and his crew don't like it, that is tough. They come off looking like weaklings for trying to manhandle media conglomerates over something like this.

Having lived and worked in Japan for nearly three decades, it has never ceased to amaze me how players, teams and leagues here try to intimidate the media when they feel they have been wronged. I have seen this happen several times over the years.

These entities are all living in the past when relations were more genteel. But those days are long gone. Media outlets have always battled for news, but that has intensified greatly in the past 30 years with the advent of the Internet.

A report on June 13 claimed that NTV and Fuji TV have both had their media credentials revoked by the Dodgers over their Ohtani house coverage.

If this is true, it is regrettable. We will see if the networks lodge formal complaints with the Commissioner's Office as they should.

The view here is that MLB values the huge exposure that NTV and Fuji give to MLB in Japan.

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani is in his first season with the Dodgers. (KYODOf)

Will MLB Mediate the Situation?

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. Major League Baseball has rules about media access. Ohtani's staff may be able to stop one-on-one interviews by NTV and Fuji. But it can't prevent them from getting postgame comments.

If it tries that, the MLB office may have to step in and call for a truce.

What is unique about the current situation is that you have a player who lives and plays in one country trying to ban media from another country. It's the definition of bizarre.

I'm not sure what Ohtani's group thinks it is going to accomplish with this move.

Does it really think it is going to punish these massive media organizations, which will be around long after Ohtani is done playing?

NBA legend Michael Jordan in an undated file photo. (William Philpott/REUTERS)

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A Teachable Moment for Shohei Ohtani and His Handlers

There is a famous precedent on this in the United States. Back in March 1994, when NBA legend Michael Jordan was playing minor league baseball, Sports Illustrated magazine ran a cover story entitled "Bag It, Michael," suggesting that the basketball hero should give up his attempt to become an MLB player.

Jordan didn't take kindly to the slight, and since that day has never spoken to anyone at SI again.

That's right, Jordan hasn't granted them an interview in more than 30 years.

Now you could make the case that SI needed Jordan more than he needed them. But the reality is that more than a quarter of a century later, the publication is still around.

Yes, SI is not the giant it once was in sports media, but that has more to do with the changing of the landscape to online journalism than a boycott by Jordan.

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani (KYODO)

A Suggestion for NTV and Fuji TV

My advice to NTV and Fuji TV is to stand firm behind their reporting and let the chips fall where they may. Don't cave in or kowtow to a lame attempt at intimidation. Show some backbone. The last thing they you should do is apologize.

Ohtani has been a professional athlete long enough to know that his every move is in the spotlight. Doing things like announcing your marriage, but not saying who your wife is, just won't cut it in the present day.

Athletic greats like Jordan, Tom Brady, LeBron James and Lionel Messi understand that there is little expectation of privacy when you get to their level.

Ohtani needs to understand that, too.


Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.


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