A Timeline of Events That Led to Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards

On March 28, Will Smith cemented himself in Oscar’s history in more ways than one. The actor won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in King Richard, making him the fifth black man to do so. But sadly, the milestone was overshadowed by an incident that occurred earlier. During presenter Chris Rock’s monologue — which saw him mock Will’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s medical condition — the Fresh Prince of Bel Air actor walked up on stage and slapped the comedian across the face. The confrontation left everyone in the audience and those watching at home stunned, with many initially thinking it was staged.

Then, when Will went to sit back down, he yelled out, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth” at a visibly confused Rock, who was at a loss for words after what had just happened. 

In the past, Jada has opened up about her alopecia diagnosis, a condition that causes extreme hair loss. She has previously explained her reasonings for being bald, saying the hair fall was getting difficult to hide. 

But what people may not know is that yesterday’s incident wasn’t the first time Rock and Smith have butted heads. The comedian has previously made jokes at the expense of the Smiths, so let’s take a look back at the events which led to that moment. 

Chris Rock Mentions Jada in the 2016 Oscars Opening Monologue

2022 wasn’t the first time Rock stood on the Oscar’s stage. In 2016, he hosted the prestigious event, and his opening monologue took a jab at Jada. That year, the Red Table Talk host decided to boycott the Oscars ceremony over its lack of diversity, and Rock addressed it in the only way he knows how: By making a joke. 

“Jada went mad, Jada says she’s not coming. Protesting,” said Rock, before saying, “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”

He then continued his roast of the Smith family by targeting Will after he was snubbed of a nomination for his role in Concussion.

“Jada’s mad her man Will was not nominated for Concussion. I get it. It is also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild Wild West.”

Speaking to X17 at the time, Jada chose to take the high road and said: “Hey, look, it comes with the territory, but we gotta keep it moving. We gotta keep it moving. We gotta keep it moving.”

Chris Rock Pokes Fun at Jada’s Medical Condition

We all know what happened next. Standing on stage, Rock quipped, “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see you.” 

GI Jane is a 1997 film starring Demi Moore, whose character shaved her head before being enlisted in the US Navy SEALs. The joke seemed to be well received by Will initially, with the cameras showing him laughing along. But Jada on the other hand was not impressed, rolling her eyes at Rock.

It didn’t take long for things to turn sour, with Will walking up on stage and slapping Rock right across the face.

Will Smith Wins Best Actor and Apologises to the Academy

Once things quietened down, Will went on to win the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Richard Williams in King Richard. The moment was overshadowed by earlier events, with Will offering a tearful apology to the Williams family and the Academy.

“I know, to do what we do, we got to be able to take abuse. You gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you and you gotta smile and pretend like that’s OK,” he started off saying.I want to apologise to the Academy, I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees.”

He admitted to looking like a crazy father, saying “love will make you do crazy things.”

“Thank you for this honour, thank you for this moment. I thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene, the entire Williams family. Thank you. I’m hoping the Academy invites me back. Thank you,” he concluded.

Oscars’ Producer Will Packer Speaks Out

This year’s Oscar Awards was a stunning display of diversity, something the ceremony has been criticised for its lack of in the past. Producer Will Packer did a phenomenal job, and his hard work was clearly evident. 

But after the altercation was all anyone could talk about once the show was over, Packer took to Twitter to address his feelings on the matter.

“Welp … I said it wouldn’t be boring,” he tweeted. His response was criticised, with many saying he’s making light of assault. Packer then returned to social media to provide a more elaborate response.

“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 [sic] that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels.”

The Academy Announces Formal Review Into Will Smith

The ordeal was far from over, with SAG-AFTRA weighing in on the situation. 

“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,” SAG-AFTRA 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 behaviour is appropriately addressed. SAG-AFTRA does not comment on any pending member disciplinary process.”

Also going on to release not one, but two statements are The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, stating: “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.”

Will Smith Issues a Public Apology to Chris Rock 

And in what is the most recent development, Will shared a public apology to Rock on social media on Tuesday morning, after growing backlash from fans and those in the industry. 

“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behaviour at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. 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,” he wrote. “I would like to publicly apologise 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.”

The post continued, “I would also like to apologise to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologise to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behaviour has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress.”

Has Chris Rock Accepted Will Smith’s Apology?

Rock is yet to respond to the apology issued by Smith, but he did decline to press any formal charges with the LAPD over the incident.

Jada Pinkett Smith’s Response

Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, has responded to the debacle via Instagram with a post simply reading, “This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.”

The Academy Reveals They Asked Will Smith to Leave

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has revealed that Smith was asked to leave the ceremony after slapping Rock, but he refused. After the incident unfolded, many questioned why he was allowed to stay seated in the front row, and the Academy has now issued a response.

“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” the Academy said. “While we would like to clarify that Mr Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognise we could have handled the situation differently.”

“Mr Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television,“ the Academy said. “Mr Rock, we apologise to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologise to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”

Chris Rock Responds

Rock has broken his silence about the altercation during his show at The Wilbur in Boston, telling the audience: “I’m still processing what happened.”

While he didn’t say much, he did mention that he will talk about what happened in a serious manner sometime in the near future. 

You can check out all our Oscars coverage here.

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