'Let's ban the Oscars': Academy's Will Smith ban met with disbelief, accusations of racism

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Will Smith accepts the award for Best Actor during the Oscars.
Will Smith accepts the award for lead actor during the 2022 Oscars. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Will Smith is facing a 10-year ban from events held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for slapping Oscars presenter Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards in March. But the reaction to the film academy's decision Friday was met with mixed results, ranging from disbelief to accusations of racism.

While the "King Richard" star has repeatedly apologized and accepted the academy's decision, the organization contended that its ban was "a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the academy."

But many people on social media didn't see it that way (and celebrities were mostly silent).

Some critics characterized the academy's ruling against the "Fresh Prince" veteran as racially motivated, while others saw it as the group making up for lax repercussions for past transgressors.

They cited inappropriate behavior by the likes of Oscar winner Adrien Brody, who planted a kiss on presenter Halle Berry in 2003, or that of comedian Jim Carrey, a critic of Smith who made live-show advances on an unwilling Alicia Silverstone at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards.

"The ten year ban they gave Will Smith feels very 'make a lesson of this Black person,'" tweeted author Frederick Joseph.

"This is 100% racially motivated," wrote Twitter user Somari, replying to a news story about Smith's punishment. "Jim Carrey sexually assaulted a woman live on stage and she was visually distressed. Will Smith slaps a dude for mocking an illness and gets banned for a decade."

Others contrasted the academy's swift action with the "Ali" and "Concussion" actor with the delayed punishments involving disgraced Hollywood players such as Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey.

Amid the #MeToo movement, the academy implemented a code of conduct in 2017 in response to the Weinstein sexual-assault scandal. It has only expelled three people — the "Shakespeare in Love" producer, Polanski and comedian-author Bill Cosby — since enacting it. (Weinstein and Polanski still have their Oscar trophies.)

"will smith becoming the face of 'they don’t love us, just what we create' was not on my 2022 bingo card. how did a slap translate to this when they have yet to ban actual predators and racists??" added user @houseofphoton.

"let’s ban the oscars for 10 years too. the hell. so many predators still not banned…" tweeted user BEYTHOVEN.

"crazy how the oscars have allowed racism and harassment to happen with no consequences, but they choose to ban will for TEN YEARS all over a slap?? f— the oscars," added user @ultrcmcr.

But there was a handful of people who backed the decision and plenty who continued to make fun of the whole slap debacle.

"Sad end to a bad episode. I'm baffled by those saying 'Not good enough!' as if the Academy is some industry-wide regulatory body. They're responsible only for their show, their awards, and their membership. And they're right to keep the awards out of it," wrote author Mark Harris.

"A harsher punishment would have been mandatory attendance for 10 years," quipped "Scandal" alum Joshua Malina.

Here's a look at some of the online discourse around the academy's decision:

Times intern Kai Grady contributed to this story.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.