Will Smith snapped when comedian Chris Rock joked about Pinkett-Smith’s military marine-style haircut at the Oscar Awards on March 27, 2022.

By James L. Walker, Jr. (@jameslwalkeresq)

Well, I guess the 2022 Oscars buried the hashtag #oscarssowhite!

As a billion people saw worldwide, Oscar winner Will Smith slapped another Black man in the face during the 3 hour plus telecast and somewhat “stole” the show when he “stole” (slapped) Chris Rock.

Isn’t this the reason he moved to Bel-Air in the first place?

And, isn’t it ironic that Tyler Perry was the one consoling him as this really felt like “Madea’s Family Cookout” where you have dancing, laughing, joking and those two relatives who get into it and sometimes fight. Then later, one relative apologizes after an elder like Madea chastises them, but usually doesn’t apologize to the person they offended or assaulted as Smith did in his acceptance speech.

The Oscars had all of this Black drama this year!

The fallout was immediate and social media went crazy.  

Will Smith has been married to Jada Pinkett-Smith for over 20 years.  And, she hosts a popular Facebook talk show called Red Table Talk, where she has talked very openly about their marriage and infidelity.

For the one person who did not see it, Will Smith snapped when comedian Rock joked about Pinkett-Smith’s military marine cut saying “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2 — can’t wait to see it, all right?”, an attempted funny reference to the 90s hit starring Demi Moore that went all wrong. 

While the room laughed, Smith calmly walked to the Oscar stage, slapped Rock in the face and walked back to his seat with his wife.   Something we haven’t seen since Solange slapped Jay-Z down in an elevator allegedly over his treatment of her sister.

Rock joked again that it was only a joke and Smith screamed from the audience repeatedly, admonishing Rock to keep “my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth.”

And the show went on as they say in Hollywood.

But the damage was done. 

Later in the show, Smith beat out Denzel Washington and several other heavyweights for the Best Actor Oscar award and with a face of tears apologized and thanked the audience and world for their support, including Venus Williams and Serena Williams and their Mom, Oracene Price for allowing him to portray Richard Williams in “King Richard.” 

Smith should be doing the rounds of interviews with his Oscar in hand feasting in the moment – instead, he’s most likely with a publicist and legal advisors trying to do damage control and wait for a call from Rock’s handling on the cost of the damage

The movie depicts the story of the young tennis icons rise from Compton to Wimbledon as led by their now ailing Dad and his sheer determination and dedication to break the rules and do whatever it took to get his daughters to the top of a white sport.

This is more of a reason why what Smith did is so tragic.   

Denzel Washington was nominated for an Oscar for playing Macbeth, the tragic Shakespearean character, but last night, Smith’s role was the most tragic on the biggest acting stage in the world. 

And the Academy may now strip Smith of his award for assaulting Rock.

Five immediate reasons stand out among others.

First, violence can never be the answer in any setting and definitely not on the biggest night of your career in front of billions of viewers.

And, I get it, he and his wife have been the butt of many jokes when she shared two years ago that she was in an “entanglement” with then 27-year-old R&B singer August Alsina while married to Smith.

The couple then did an awkward sit down at her Red Table show where many felt Smith looked humiliated and emasculated, but yet tried to stand with his wife and act as if all was well, but yet still got her to admit she was in a full blown relationship rather than just an “entanglement” as she called it.

And comedians and stars from D.L. Hughly to The Breakfast Club co-host Charlamagne Tha God have condemned, ridiculed and judged Pinkett-Smith for her actions and overall asked the couple to deal with it privately, but the jokes still continue to come regularly on social media.

So last night’s violence appears to be a build up from all the jokes and belittling both have taken from comedians and social media everywhere. 

But, under no circumstances do you handle it like this.  As Diddy said later in the show, solve it like family at the after party. 

Secondly, this night was about winning the Oscar and celebrating the Williams family and all they have accomplished and Smith’s first Best Actor win since losing out to Denzel Washington for the “Ali” movie.

The violent assault of Rock totally over shadows the greatness of the moment: a true American rags to riches story leads to an inspiring movie and an Oscar win for its lead actor.

This morning everyone should be talking about the extraordinary life of Richard Williams and the two daughters he developed – arguably the top two tennis players of all-time and clearly the best siblings duo.

And, Smith should be doing the rounds of interviews this morning with his Oscar in hand feasting in the moment – instead, he’s most likely with a publicist and legal advisors trying to do damage control and wait for a call from Rock’s handling on the cost of the damage, as I’ll discuss later.

The third reason Smith was out-of-line is because he knows better. 

He has done everything for decades “Big Willie” style as he called it.  He was perfect and always knew how to get jiggy with it for his homeboys in West Philly, where he was born and raised, to the mountains of Beverly Hills, where he has amassed a $300 million fortune and commands $20 million per movie.

He is a box office A-list star and one of the few African-Americans whose films have grossed well over $5 billion dollars.   And, again, isn’t this why his Mama sent him to Hollywood as depicted in semi-autobiographical Peacock Series “Bel-Air”.   Last night felt like an episode of the dramatic TV show that has been done so well.

Smith has been taught by his Mom, Ms. Caroline Bright, music mogul Benny Medina and even Quincy Jones, who produced the original “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, loosely based on Medina’s life, over 30 years ago.

Which Leads me to the fourth reason why what he did was so wrong: little boys, particularly African-American boys look at the Fresh Prince or Will Smith as a huge role model and last night three decades of building that brand and leading by example approach totally went out the window.

And I do understand speaking up for your woman- I just would have met Rock in a dressing room, man-to-man.  

And, we are all sensitive to his wife’s struggle with alopecia, the autoimmune condition that causes hair loss.   It occurs when the immune system attacks body tissues, especially hair follicles, causing Pinkett-Smith’s hair to fall out. 

This is a serious health challenge, but again, be a role model to your children Jaden, Trey and Willow and others and show them how to handle it maturely.   If he had to defend his wife, Smith could have spoken up during his acceptance speech as he was the favorite to win his first Oscar.

And lastly, but just as important to all of this is the history of the Oscar as an all white platform that disregards the many talents of blacks in practically every category.   

And notably, how we typically only get honored as African-Americans for movies like Halle Berry’s “Monster Ball”, Lee Daniels’ dysfunctional family story of “Precious” or Hattie McDaniel winning in 1940 for her role in “Gone With the Wind”, playing a subservient slave.

It wasn’t until Denzel Washington won for “Glory” and later “Training Day” and Regina King won for “If Beale Street Could Talk” that we felt the protests were finally being heard. 

And even having Hollywood star producer Will Packer named to produce this years show was historic.  Packer included guitar player and band leader extraordinaire Adam Blackstone as musical director and two black hosts and a woman hosting, Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer.

Having a fisticuff moment on the stage sets us all back and you can already hear whispers from the old non-Black Oscar pundits saying “see this is why it was good to exclude people of color from the show or nominations.”

In their old school false thinking, if Will Smith isn’t nominated and we keep the show lily white, we avoid this whole brouhaha.

There are several other reasons Smith was wrong and I could name a few more for his consideration.

But I think for right now, he has to consider how many zeroes to put in that check he will undoubtedly have to write Mr. Chris Rock- I estimate $3 million is a good starting point for the assault. 

Also, look for a written public apology from Smith and a quick acceptance from Rock and a quiet check sent simultaneously!

In the meantime, we pray Smith, who will overcome this, gets some counseling or help as he has “entangled” himself in an obvious meltdown that finally erupted on the worst stage and may cost Smith a stripping of his award.

As Black men and a society, we cannot normalize this violence and give it a pass when we have the treatment available and must do the work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR.  James L. Walker, Jr., is an entertainment lawyer based in Atlanta. He has represented a who’s who of the music industry including Aretha Franklin, DMX, Jamie Foxx and Shirley Caesar to name a few.   He has been featured on ABC, CNN, FOX, BET and in Billboard to name a few.  He can be found emailed at: jjwalker@walkerandassoc.com

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