The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences board of governors has banned Will Smith from all its events, including the Oscars, for 10 years after the best actor winner slapped the presenter Chris Rock on stage at the Academy Awards ceremony.
Smith has publicly apologized and resigned from the academy. The Academy’s decision on Friday comes after its president, David Rubin, expedited a board meeting scheduled for 18 April in light of Smith’s voluntary resignation. In his letter to board members, Rubin said that Ampas rules stipulated a 15-day notice to consider suspending a membership, but after Smith’s resignation that no longer applied.
The Academy in a statement called Smith’s actions “unacceptable and harmful”.
“The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year,” the letter continued. “However, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr Smith exhibit on stage.”
The Academy also apologized for its handling of the situation during its live broadcast, adding: “During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short – unprepared for the unprecedented.”
Smith slapped Rock after the comedian joked about the appearance of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Shortly after the incident, Smith won the best actor award for his role as Richard Williams, father to Venus and Serena, in King Richard. Ampas later said Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony following the incident and refused, though later reports suggested that this was not a formal request and that the show’s producer, Will Packer, wanted him to stay. It was later reported that Rubin and the Ampas CEO, Dawn Hudson, had held a secret meeting with Smith two days after the Oscars ceremony.
The decision to ban Smith for a decade stemmed from “tons of debate” on what the consequences for the assault should be, a board member told CNN. Smith lost his Academy vote with his resignation. Had he been expelled by the board, Smith would have joined a small, ignominious group of men removed from the Academy – Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby – as well as the actor Carmine Caridi, who was expelled for sharing awards screeners.
In his resignation, Smith said he would “accept any further consequences the board deems appropriate”.
“I betrayed the trust of the Academy,” he added in the statement. “I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work.”
In its letter announcing the ban, the board expressed “deep gratitude” to Rock for “maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances” and also thanked “our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast”.
“This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith’s behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy,” the letter concluded. “We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.”