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Academy says Will Smith ‘refused’ to leave Oscars after slapping Chris Rock

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors released a statement about deciding the actor's fate after his incident with Chris Rock.
94th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet
Will Smith before the Academy Awards on March 27, 2022.Emma McIntyre / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors is deciding Will Smith’s fate, sharing in a new statement on Wednesday that the actor could face “suspension, expulsions or other sanctions” after slapping Chris Rock during the 2022 Oscars ceremony. It also notes that they had asked Smith to leave following the incident and he "refused."

The Board of Governors initiated disciplinary proceedings against the “King Richard” star “for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy.”

The Board of Governors states that, "consistent with the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, as well as California law," Smith “is being provided at least 15 days’ notice of a vote regarding his violations and sanctions, and the opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response.”

“At the next board meeting on April 18, the Academy may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the Bylaws and Standards of Conduct,” the statement continues, before noting how Smith’s actions during the ceremony “were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television.”

They also extended an apology to Rock, stating, “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.”

"Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently," the statement concludes.

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During the March 27 ceremony, Rock was presenting the best documentary award when he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head. The "Red Table Talk" co-host has previously spoken about her hair loss and alopecia.

Smith was offended by the joke, stood up and proceeded to go on stage and smack Rock on the face. He went on to win best actor for his role in “King Richard” about 40 minutes after the altercation. Smith has since apologized to the academy, viewers, and Rock for his actions.

That night, the comedian declined to file a report against Smith.

Related: Chris Rock recently explained why he’s avoided confrontation after childhood fight

On Monday, the Academy said their members had started a "formal review around the incident" and condemned Smith's actions.

The academy’s standards of conduct for members expressly forbid “intimidation, stalking, abusive or threatening behavior, or bullying.”

The conduct code states that academy members who violate its terms could be subject to “disciplinary action.”

“If any member is found by the Academy to have violated these standards or to have compromised the integrity of the Academy by their actions — whether in a professional or non- professional setting— the Academy may take any disciplinary action permitted by the Academy’s Bylaws, up to and including suspension of membership or expulsion from membership.”

TODAY reached out to the Academy for clarification on what kind of disciplinary action could be taken against Smith, but as of Wednesday evening, we had not heard back.

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Many celebrities, as well as Smith’s mother Carolyn and Richard Williams, have expressed their shock over the actor’s controversial moment. Rock’s brother, Tony Rock, shared on Twitter that he did not approve of Smith’s apology, and that — despite reports to the contrary — the two stars have not made up.

Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes, who co-hosted the Oscars alongside Regina Hall, also condemned Smith's action. In a since-deleted post, Schumer wrote that she was “still triggered and traumatized” over the “disturbing” incident.

Sykes told Ellen DeGeneres — in a sneak peek of her upcoming interview airing on April 7 — that Rock apologized to her at an after-party.

“I’m like, ‘Why are you apologizing?’ He’s like, ‘It was supposed to be your night. You and Amy and Regina, you all were doing such a great job. I’m so sorry. This is now going to be about this,’ she shared. "Because that’s who Chris is.”

Hall has yet to speak out on the matter.