Could Will Smith lose his Oscar over the Chris Rock slap?
Chances are, no, he won’t – but the incident has led to much discussion around the Academy, its code of conduct, and whether the situation was handled appropriately.
Following Chris Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance due to her alopecia on Sunday night, Smith made his way to the Oscars stage and slapped the comedian. He then returned to his seat and said: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth.”
But could Smith be at any risk of losing his Oscar, and what happens now?
The LAPD has since confirmed that no charges had been made against the actor. Smith himself also apologised to the Academy during his Oscar acceptance speech for his role in King Richard.
Visibly emotional, he said: “I want to apologise to the Academy, I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment, and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me, it’s about being able to shine a light on all the people… the entire cast and crew of King Richard.”
He also added: “Love makes you do crazy things.”
Will Smith just punched Chris Rock and told him "keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth" pic.twitter.com/1f1ytdbMRv
— CJ Fogler (@cjzer0) March 28, 2022
Following the incident, the Academy tweeted appearing to close the matter, saying: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
However, in 2017 at the height of the #MeToo era, the Academy released a code of conduct it expected all members to follow. This included “behaving ethically,” upholding the Academy’s “values,” and avoiding any kinds of abuse based on a number of factors.
Many people have pointed to this code of conduct and questioned whether Smith may have broken it, and if its details will force the Academy to take further action.
AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson wrote at the time: “Academy membership is a privilege offered to only a select few within the global community of filmmakers.
“In addition to achieving excellence in the field of motion picture arts and sciences, members must also behave ethically by upholding the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity.
“There is no place in the Academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognised standards of decency.
“The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality. The Board of Governors believes that these standards are essential to the Academy’s mission and reflective of our values.”
Although Smith’s slap was not carried out on the basis of any of the above, but rather as a direct response to Rock’s joke, it remains to be seen as to whether the Academy will take further action given the out cry on social media and beyond.
Following the incident, in a now deleted and highly criticised tweet, Judd Apatow said: “He could have killed him. That’s pure out of control rage and violence. They’ve heard a million jokes about them in the last three decades. They are not freshman in the world of Hollywood and comedy. He lost his mind.”
Comedian Kathy Griffin added: “Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a comedian. Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theatres.”
Elsewhere, Sophia Bush said: “This is the 2nd time that Chris has made fun of Jada on the #Oscars stage, and tonight he went after her alopecia. Punching down at someone’s auto-immune disease is wrong. Doing so on purpose is cruel. They both need a breather.”
Later at the Oscars after party, Smith was seen celebrating his win, so it’s unlikely that the 53-year-old is concerned about needing to return his award.
A Hollywood source, however, told the New York Post that apparently no one in a highly placed position knows what will happen next. “It’s basically assault. Everyone was just so shocked in the room, it was so uncomfortable,” they said.
“I think Will would not want to give his Oscar back, but who knows what will happen now.”