The Academy Formally Responds To The Will Smith Situation

Live television always has the potential for something surprising to happen, but the altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the 94th Annual Academy Awards was a truly shocking moment that cast a pall over the rest of the evening. While presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature, Rock made a joke at the expense of Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Smith walked up onto the stage and slapped Rock before yelling at him. The Academy must decide how to move forward after Smith's violent actions while taking the full context of the situation into consideration. According to Variety, the Academy has launched a formal review to determine disciplinary action for Smith, and has condemned his behavior by name after tweeting a more vague statement about not condoning violence immediately after the ceremony. 

The Academy looks inward

Smith went on to win the Best Actor award for his performance as Richard Williams in "King Richard," and gave an apology to the Academy and everyone watching for his behavior in his acceptance speech, though he tried to rationalize some of it by saying "love makes you do crazy things." Rock and Smith both owe some serious apologies, but the Academy is looking into formally disciplining Smith in accordance with their bylaws, releasing the following statement:

"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."

The Hollywood Reporter and Variety both speculate that Smith's Academy membership could be suspended, but find it very unlikely that he will be forced to return his Oscar. After all, Roman Polanski, Harvey Weinstein, and Woody Allen still all have their Oscars despite breaking the Academy's bylaws about abuse, so why would they start taking Oscars away now? Smith may also have to give another, more formal apology, or face sanctions from the Academy, but that seems like it will be the extent of the legal or professional repercussions. Rock declined to file a police report or press charges against Smith, so any further legal action is extremely unlikely. 

The entire situation is honestly tragic, overshadowing many of the night's big wins, including Smith's own. People will be talking about the altercation long after the buzz for Smith's performance in "King Richard" has passed, and that's a real shame. In addition to investigating formal disciplinary action against Smith, the folks at the Academy might also want to investigate how to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again instead of just letting it play out and trying to fix things afterward.