Award Shows March 29, 2022
Richard Williams Breaks Silence on Will Smith Hitting Chris Rock
Richard Williams, the subject of Will Smith’s movie “King Richard,” is speaking out for the first time since Will slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars.
Will and Chris shared a heated exchange on the 2022 Oscars stage over a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith — and it turned physical when Smith slapped Rock.
Smith went on to win Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard as a father who tirelessly worked to make his daughters Venus and Serena Williams tennis stars
Richard, who suffered a stroke in 2016, spoke to NBC News via his son and spokesperson Chavoita LeSane.
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LeSane said his 80-year-old father was shocked by the incident, adding, “We don't know all the details of what happened, but we don't condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it's in self-defense.”
NBC News also asked about Will’s acceptance speech, which referenced Richard and the family, but Richard had no comment.
During the speech, Will said, in part, “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… I'm being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.”
Smith thanked the entire Williams family for “entrusting me with your story,” and later added, “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”
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On Monday, Smith issued a lengthy apology on Instagram, calling his behavior “unacceptable and inexcusable.” He wrote, “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive… Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. 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,” Will continued. “I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. 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.”
The Academy also condemned Smith’s behavior, announcing it was going to investigate actions it might take in response.
The Academy said in a statement, "The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night's show. 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."
As listed in the Academy's Standard of Conduct, unacceptable conduct includes "physical contact that is uninvited and, in the situation, inappropriate and unwelcome."
The Standards of Conduct also state that if a member is found to have violated the standards, "The Academy may take any disciplinary action permitted by the Academy's Bylaws, up to and including suspension of membership or expulsion from membership."
SAG-AFTRA also released a statement, saying, “As the union representing presenters and other performers working on the Oscars, SAG-AFTRA is focused on ensuring our members always work in a safe environment. 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.”