Will Smith refused to leave Oscars, faces disciplinary action for slapping Chris Rock

Will Smith was asked to leave the 94th annual Academy Awards ceremony Sunday after slapping presenter Chris Rock, but refused, according to a new statement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Wednesday.

The organization behind the Oscars said its board of governors have initiated a disciplinary proceeding against Smith for violating the group’s standards of conduct. During the board’s next meeting on April 18 it will decide what action it will take, if any, including suspension or expulsion.

“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television,” The Academy said in its statement. “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.”

The incident occurred during the latter half of the ceremony when Rock told several jokes ahead of announcing the winner for best documentary. One joke was aimed at Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair, which prompted her spouse, Smith, to march up to the stage and slap Rock.

ABC cut out the mics, but uncensored international feeds picked up Smith yelling profanities at Rock.

For days audiences have speculated why Smith was not removed from the ceremony after the altercation. It’s unclear exactly how or when he was asked to leave, but, ultimately, he remained at the Dolby Theater and accepted the award for best actor later in the evening.

The Academy said it recognizes “we could have handled the situation differently.”

Wanda Sykes, who hosted the event alongside Amy Schumer and Regina Hall, told Ellen Degeneres during a segment to be aired in April she didn’t see the slap live, but called the incident “sickening.”

“I physically felt ill and I’m still a little traumatized by it,” she said. “And 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?’ This is just the wrong message. You assault somebody, you get escorted out of the building and that’s it. For them to let him continue, I thought it was gross.”

On Monday, Smith took to social media to formally apologize to Rock, calling his behavior “unacceptable and inexcusable.” He had previously apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees during his speech on Sunday.

Rock has yet to address the incident, but will make his first public appearance Wednesday night in Boston where he set to perform two back-to-back shows at the Wilbur Theatre. The anticipation has sent second-market ticket sales soaring.

Read the full statement from the Academy:

The Board of Governors today initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy.

Consistent with the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, as well as California law, Mr. 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.

Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television. 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.

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.