Home News Los Angeles Sports Fans Are Bewildered by Gambling Scandal

Los Angeles Sports Fans Are Bewildered by Gambling Scandal

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Los Angeles Sports Fans Are Bewildered by Gambling Scandal

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It’s Friday. Angelenos say they’re bewildered after the Los Angeles Dodgers fired the interpreter of Shohei Ohtani, a star player, over a gambling scandal. Plus, a deeper look at new laws to address the intertwined crises of mental illness and homelessness in California.

Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers were elated in December when Shohei Ohtani, the two-way baseball superstar with a squeaky-clean image, struck a blockbuster deal to join the team.

At $700 million over 10 years, it made Ohtani the highest paid baseball player ever. Fans were even more thrilled by the fact that he agreed to defer most of that salary to free up money for the team to build a winning squad around him.

Although Ohtani had been famous for years, including during his previous six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and when he played in the Japanese professional league before that, his stardom reached another level with the Dodgers. He immediately vaulted into position as the face of not just the franchise but also of Major League Baseball. Billboards and murals have appeared across the city featuring the pitcher and slugger in Dodger blue.

Now, after bombshell reporting by ESPN and The Los Angeles Times this week that places Ohtani near the center of a gambling scandal involving his longtime interpreter and close friend, many fans say they’re bewildered — but withholding judgment until more information emerges.

“Shocked. Shocked,” said Lisa Jaramillo, 61, a longtime Dodgers fan, on Thursday as she walked through L.A. Live, the downtown complex home to Crypto.com Arena and a cluster of sports bars. “You know, I have to hear both sides.”

Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, told ESPN in a lengthy interview on Tuesday that the baseball star transferred money willingly to an illegal bookmaker in Orange County to help out Mizuhara, who struggled with a gambling addiction. The outlet saw financial records that showed funds had been sent in Ohtani’s name.

But the accounts of what happened changed in less than a day: On Wednesday, the Dodgers abruptly announced that Mizuhara had been fired and Ohtani’s representatives accused the interpreter of stealing millions of dollars from the slugger to pay off gambling debts.

That same day, Mizuhara disavowed his previous statements to ESPN and said that Ohtani knew nothing about the transfers.

The news was particularly stunning because of Ohtani’s brotherly relationship with Mizuhara, who had been his interpreter since he signed with the Angels in 2017. The two were seen joking around in the Dodgers’ dugout hours before the gambling stories broke.

When I was at the Dodgers spring training camp in Arizona last month, the only time I saw Ohtani in the clubhouse, he sat by his locker and spoke exclusively to Mizuhara. The reporters who cover Ohtani treated Mizuhara as a de facto gatekeeper to the star.

This week should have been a joyous one for the Dodgers as they opened the season with two games in South Korea against the San Diego Padres. Instead, the team was suddenly marred by another scandal.

Speculation ran rampant Thursday on sports talk radio and social media about what actually happened and whether Ohtani had known about the payments to the bookie. Some wondered whether the theft allegation was a way to protect Ohtani against wrongdoing after funds were wired in his name to an illegal bookmaker. The overnight change in stories fueled skepticism in Los Angeles.

“As a Dodgers fan, I want nothing more than for what I’m reading to be the truth,” Travis Rodgers, a commentator on ESPN LA, said during a live broadcast on Thursday from the Islands Restaurant in Manhattan Beach, referring to claims that Ohtani didn’t know about the transfers. “All I know is this story stinks. It doesn’t make sense on the surface.”

Fans told me on Thursday that they were inclined to believe that Mizuhara had deceived Ohtani and wondered whether the Dodgers had done their due diligence when he joined the organization.

Above all, though, fans said they hoped that whatever the outcome of the ongoing investigations, the team’s performance wouldn’t suffer.

Giovanni Gochez, 34, a Colorado resident who grew up in the area and is a die-hard Dodgers fan, was visiting Los Angeles with his family on Thursday and spoke in the shadow of the new statue of Kobe Bryant. He said he sat through the entire 18 innings of the team’s Game 3 win in the 2018 World Series.

“I mean, everybody does things behind closed doors,” Gochez said. “As a fan, I’m still right there rooting.”

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has unveiled a busy lineup of shows for the spring and summer season, with headlining exhibitions from artists, including Kara Walker, Mary Lovelace O’Neal and others.

The museum kicked off the first of several Northern California-themed shows planned for the spring on March 16 with an exhibition of new works by Lovelace O’Neal, the famous Bay Area-based painter.

On April 6, the museum will open a show honoring the 50th anniversary of Creative Growth, a nonprofit organization in Oakland that supports artists with disabilities. The museum will also separately display in April a work from one of the organization’s artists, William Scott, as part of its community-focused, wall mural series.

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