Will Smith’s apology feels sincere enough

The actor expressed regret to Chris Rock, his co-stars, and perhaps most importantly, the Williams family.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Will Smith attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by ...
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Will Smith has issued an official apology after his controversial night at the Oscars. The actor, who took home an Oscar for Best Actor for his role in King Richard just an hour or so after going up on stage and slapping comedian Chris Rock following a joke about his wife, issued a statement online about his “behavior.”

“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” he wrote. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”

Rock’s joke referenced Jada Pinkett Smith’s closely-cropped hair, which is a result of her alopecia. While Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees during his acceptance speech toward the end of the night, he did not make reference or apologize to Rock specifically. But in his statement online, he corrected course.

“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris,” Smith wrote. “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 actor also apologized again to the Academy, along with viewers at home and his King Richard family, before signing off by saying, “I am a work in progress.” While the discourse around the incident has morphed quickly into a deranged take-generator — with some seeing Smith’s reaction as a reasonable defense after a line was crossed, and others turning the natural shock of it all into dubious, dog-whistle overreactions — the public statement was, particularly with Smith as such a high-profile figure, necessary and hit all the right marks.

It was also far better than Smith’s somewhat troubling first attempt during his acceptance speech, in which he likened himself to Richard Williams as a protector of his family and claimed that love makes you do crazy things. Most importantly, he apologized again to the Williams family — regardless of the debates around Rock’s tasteless joke and what may or may not have been warranted or at least understandable from Smith, the outburst overshadowed what should have been a remarkable, celebratory moment for Venus and Serena Williams and their family.

The day after the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences opened a formal review, though it remains unclear what potential consequences would come from the incident. Meanwhile, Rock, who declined to press charges, has remained publicly silent in the immediate aftermath, though, according to Page Six, Diddy vaguely claimed that the two had already made up. “That’s not a problem,” Diddy reportedly said. “That’s over. I can confirm that.”