Academy says Will Smith was 'asked to leave' Oscars but refused

Will Smith
(Image credit: Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

After slapping comedian Chris Rock on live television, Will Smith allegedly refused to leave the Oscars.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday that its board of governors has initiated disciplinary proceedings against Smith after he slapped Rock during Sunday's Oscars over a joke about his wife, Variety reports. The group said Smith is being investigated over violations of its standards of conduct, "including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy."

In the days since the ceremony, the Academy has faced questions about why Smith was not removed from the event and still allowed to accept his award for Best Actor. The Academy now says it would "like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused." But the group also acknowledged that "we could have handled the situation differently." It was unclear who asked Smith to leave.

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The Academy says it "may take any disciplinary action" against Smith, "which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions," at its next board meeting on April 18, and he is being given the opportunity to offer a written response.

"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 apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologize to our nominees, guests, and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event."

Oscars co-host Wanda Sykes previously criticized the Academy for not removing Smith from the Oscars after he slapped Rock. "For them to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his award, I was like, 'How gross is this?'" Sykes said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "'This is just the wrong message.'"

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.