Will Smith Publicly Apologizes to Chris Rock for Oscars Slap, Calls Himself 'a Work in Progress'
Will Smith took to Instagram late Monday to apologize for slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars after many in the entertainment industry denounced his behavior.
Will Smith made a public apology to Chris Rock one day after taking to the stage at the 2022 Academy Awards and slapping the comedian across the face after he made a joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith's hair.
Smith took to Instagram late Monday to share the statement, which began, "Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally."
He then apologized directly to Rock.
"I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong," Smith wrote. "I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.
"I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family," he continued. "I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.
"I am a work in progress," he wrote. "Sincerely, Will."
Smith's statement came after many in the entertainment industry denounced his behavior.
Movie and television producer Will Packer, who made history not only as the first Black producer of the Oscars, but also by leading the first-ever all-Black production team in the Oscars' 94-year history, initially responded to the incident by tweeting, “Welp…I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars.”
Some criticized his response. One Twitter user wrote to him, "Making jokes about an assault that happened during your show isn’t the congratulatory message you think it is."
Packer responded to that person's tweet Tuesday, writing, "Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it. I don’t feel the need to elucidate that for you. But I also don’t mind being transparent and say that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which administers the Oscar awards, also condemned the actor's actions and announced it has opened an inquiry into the incident.
“The academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show,” the academy said in a statement obtained by The New York Times. “We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law.”
Behavior deemed unacceptable by the academy includes "physical contact that is uninvited and, in the situation, inappropriate and unwelcome, or coercive sexual attention,” as well as "intimidation, stalking, abusive or threatening behavior, or bullying,” according to a document on the academy's standards of conduct obtained by the Times. Those found breaking the standards of conduct could face "suspension of membership or expulsion from membership."
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the union that represents thousands who work in the film, television and radio industries, said in a statement, "Violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never appropriate and the union condemns any such conduct. The incident involving Will Smith and Chris Rock at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable. We have been in contact with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ABC about this incident, and will work to ensure this behavior is appropriately addressed. SAG-AFTRA does not comment on any pending member disciplinary process.”
Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams who Smith portrayed in "King Richard," also said on Monday he condemns violence. “We don’t know all the details of what happened,” Richard Williams, via his son Chavoita LeSane, told NBC News. “But we don’t condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self-defense.”
Smith won the award for Best Actor for his performance as Williams minutes after slapping Rock on Sunday. The incident occurred after Rock took to the stage to introduce the award for Best Documentary. Before introducing the award, Rock began by roasting the audience. He first joked about married couple Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz both being nominated for Oscars that evening before turning his attention to Smith and Pinkett Smith.
"Jada, I love ya. 'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see ya," Rock said. Smith initially appeared to laugh from his seat while Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia, appeared unimpressed with the joke.
Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder that attacks hair follicles, resulting in bald spots and hair loss. The actress has been open about her battle with the disorder and dealing with hair loss for years. Last summer, Pinkett Smith, 50, said she was inspired by her and Smith's daughter Willow Smith to completely shave her head.
Rock, 57, was still in the middle of presenting when Smith, 53, took to the stage and smacked Rock across the face.
Rock seemed taken aback as Smith made his way back to his seat. "Oh wow," he said. "Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me."
"Keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth!" Smith yelled after returning to his seat.
"Wow, dude, it was a 'G.I. Jane' joke," Rock said.
"Keep my wife's name out your f---ing mouth!" Smith replied again.
"I'm going to, OK?" Rock replied, before once again returning his focus on presenting. "That was the ... greatest night in the history of television."
Rock had also taken aim at Pinkett Smith while hosting the 2016 Academy Awards. During his monologue, he referenced that Pinkett Smith was boycotting the awards ceremony in light of the "Oscars So White" call-to-action for more diversity amongst the Academy and those honored. "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited," Rock said.
During his acceptance speech for Best Actor, Smith tearfully acknowledged what went on earlier. "Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world,” Smith said. “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people. And to be a river to my people. And I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and you’ve got be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend like that’s OK.”
Denzel Washington then called out to Smith. Washington had appeared to comfort Smith during a commercial break after Smith smacked Rock. “Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, 'at your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you,'” Smith said. “I want to be a vessel for love.”
Smith thanked Venus and Serena Williams, the Williams family and the film's cast and crew. He then apologized, but did not mention Rock. “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees,” he said. Smith then spoke again about Richard Williams. “Just like they said, I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things,” he said.
He thanked his mother, whom he said was watching in Philadelphia with her “knitting crew,” and he thanked his wife. “I’m taking up too much time. Thank you for this honor. And thank you for this moment. Thank you,” he concluded. “I hope the Academy invites me back.”
Rock declined to file a police report after being smacked, the Los Angeles Police Department said. "LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program," the LAPD said in a statement obtained by Variety. "The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report.
"If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report," the statement said.
Sean “Diddy” Combs reportedly later confirmed that Rock and Smith made amends after the awards ceremony. “That’s not a problem. That’s over. I can confirm that,” Diddy, 52, told Page Six at the Vanity Fair Oscars after party Sunday. “It’s all love. They’re brothers.”
On Tuesday, Pinkett Smith also released a statement on Instagram.
"This is a season for healing and I'm here for it," she wrote.
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