The Shohei Ohtani gambling scandal is about more than bad bets

The firestorm surrounding one of baseball's biggest stars threatens to upend a generational legacy and professional sports at large

Shohei Ohtani
The "career and reputation of baseball's best, highest-paid, and most famous player" is at risk
(Image credit: Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP via Getty Images)

There is perhaps no bigger star playing Major League Baseball today than Shohei Ohtani. Over the course of his career in both his native Japan and in the United States, Ohtani has frequently been compared to — and sometimes described as even surpassing — baseball greats like Babe Ruth and other mythological figures of the game. As both a pitcher and hitter he has proven himself to be the sort of generational talent who becomes synonymous with baseball as a contemporary sport and with the broader legacy of baseball as both a national and international institution. 

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that Ohtani had been named in connection to a sprawling federal investigation into alleged gambling bookkeeper Matthew Bowyer and Ohtani's since-fired interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. It's a scandal that has threatened to overshadow Ohtani's legacy in baseball, even as his exact involvement remains unclear. Ohtani's representatives claimed the baseball star had been the "victim of a massive theft" of millions of dollars. Mizuhara claimed to ESPN that Ohtani had agreed to help him pay off a large gambling debt. While multiple money transfers from Ohtani's bank account were wired to an associate of Bowyer, the baseball star himself had "zero involvement in betting." One day later, he recanted, and claimed Ohtani had no knowledge of the debt or payments. 

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