Dodgers fire Shohei Ohtani interpreter amid theft, sports gambling allegations

ESPN reported that a spokesman for Ohtani first said that the player had knowingly transferred the funds to cover the gambling debt of Mizuhara, Ohtani’s long-term friend and associate.

The same spokesman organized an 90-minute interview between Mizuhara and ESPN on Tuesday night, where Mizuhara explained his side of the story.

He told ESPN that he had incurred the debts betting on the NBA, the NFL, college football and international soccer but never on baseball, which is prohibited by MLB rules.

“Obviously, he [Ohtani] wasn’t happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again,” Mizuhara said. “He decided to pay it off for me.”

“I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting. I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again,” he told ESPN.

However, ESPN said that as it prepared to publish its story Wednesday, the spokesman for Ohtani disavowed Mizuhara’s account and said the player’s lawyers would issue a statement.

ESPN reported that Mizuhara then changed his story Wednesday, saying that Ohtani in fact had no knowledge of his gambling debts and Ohtani had not transferred money to the bookmaker’s associate. ESPN reported that Mizuhara said he had been told not to comment on whether he had been accused of theft by Ohtani but declined to say by whom.

NBC News has contacted the Dodgers, representatives for Ohtani and Mizuhara overnight seeking further comment.

Mizuhara has worked with Ohtani since his major league debut in 2018.

After working with the Boston Red Sox as an interpreter, he met Ohtani after returning to Japan in 2013. When Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017, the team hired Mizuhara to work as his personal interpreter. ESPN reported that Mizuhara told the outlet he had been paid between $300,000 and $500,000 annually.

It has already been an eventful week for Ohtani, 29, who has become the face of MLB’s efforts to build its brand in Asia and one of the sport’s leading stars.

He has been greeted by legions of adoring fans at the Dodger’s season-opening series in Seoul, despite South Korea’s long-standing rivalry with Ohtani’s native Japan.

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