Editorial: A 10-year ban for Will Smith. The Academy finally gets tough

Chris Rock and Will Smith onstage
Chris Rock and Will Smith on March 27 at the 94th Academy Awards.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday ruled that Will Smith will be banned from attending the Oscars ceremony — as a guest or presenter — as well as any other academy events for the next 10 years.

That may seem like a harsh punishment for Smith smacking Chris Rock onstage at the ceremony, nearly two weeks ago, over a joke the comic told about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith.

But consider the enormity of what happened that night. This isn’t like Smith confronted Rock backstage or in a Dolby Theatre parking garage and hit him. That would have been bad enough. He did it on global TV. And then Smith went back to his seat and screamed profanities across the theater at Rock — lest any of us (including Rock) think the whole thing was just a comic bit. If it were any other awards ceremony for achievements in a profession, chances are someone who rushed the stage and hit the presenter would be arrested and/or fired from their job.


Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock was a stomach-churning moment at the 2022 Oscars, and robbed one of the night’s winners of his moment to shine.

March 28, 2022

Smith effectively derailed the rest of the show. All anyone could talk or think about was what they had just seen. Musician and director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, whose “Summer of Soul” won for documentary feature; Jane Campion, only the third woman to win an Oscar for directing; and the producers, director and actors of the groundbreaking film “CODA,” which won best picture, all had their moments overshadowed by this insane act.

Since then, Smith apologized, incrementally, to everyone and resigned from the academy. Officials from the academy have apologized for mishandling the event after kinda, sorta asking Smith to leave and then not making him leave that night. In the announcement Friday, Academy officials again apologized, saying they had an opportunity that night to set an example for everyone, “and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented.”

So are they overcompensating now? Is 10 years too long to banish Smith? Should it have been five years, or three? Hard to know. There isn’t a sentencing commission report on assaults committed at the Academy Awards. (This page called for him to not be allowed to present at or attend the Oscars next year.) This doesn’t stop Smith from working or being nominated for an Oscar, or even winning one — although he couldn’t accept it in person or on a virtual screen.

The decision was made by the 54-member Board of Governors, a diverse group of Hollywood entertainers and professionals.

Will Smith smacking Chris Rock was an indefensible act of violence. He shouldn’t be invited back next year.

March 28, 2022

The point is that the academy did what it needed to do: Send a clear message to the public and to movie stars — who are among the most indulged people on the planet, accustomed to doing whatever they want, whenever they want — that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.

In response, Smith released a statement saying, “I accept and respect the academy’s decision.” That’s the smartest thing he’s said in two weeks.