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

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.

The ten year ban they gave Will Smith feels very “make a lesson of this Black person.”

— Frederick "Pre-order Patriarchy Blues" Joseph (@FredTJoseph) April 8, 2022

"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:

FYI. Ten years. pic.twitter.com/VWay8TPR31

— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) April 8, 2022

A harsher punishment would have been mandatory attendance for 10 years. https://t.co/SDkVfDIBzp

— (((Joshua Malina))) (@JoshMalina) April 8, 2022

10 years over slap like they issuing a goddamn prison sentence on a black man i don’t like it.

— 🃏ᴰʳnibby⁷✿ (@ZoroMins) April 8, 2022

baffling that will smith's career is crumbling because of a slap, but whenever some celebrities were outed as legitimate predators, they were still able to stay in business…

racially motivated.

— ✨🌺 Jared 🌺✨ • #BLM ✊🏾 • 🦉🐸 spoilers (@jeezreeze12) April 8, 2022

Will Smith is banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years? Will earth even be around in 10 years?

— Erin B. Logan (@erinblogan) April 8, 2022

Okay. This seems insane. https://t.co/HER6iD3Cd1

— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) April 8, 2022

Will Smith gets a 10 year ban from attending to he Oscars. Damn. They did not say that he’s banned from being nominated for an Oscar.

— Touré (@Toure) April 8, 2022

So to be clear, Will Smith can still be nominated and win an Oscar, he just can't go to the show or Oscar-related events. Makes sense.

— Joe Flint Vessel of Love (@JBFlint) April 8, 2022

BREAKING: Will Smith banned by the Hollywood Academy, 12 days after he slapped Chris Rock.
It took the same Academy 40 years to ban Roman Polanski after he was convicted of raping a child.

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) April 8, 2022

White Privilege on parade: Will Smith banned from attending the Oscars for the next 10 years for slapping Chris Rock. In contrast, Donald Trump waged a coup and incited the Jan 6 terrorist attack BUT has suffered NO Penalty at all.

— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) April 8, 2022

The backlash the Academy aka Oscar’s is getting from this Will Smith 10 years ban is a result in listening to rich dumbasses be loud & not the rest of us who just didn’t care that much. A year or two would have been understood…but 10? 😭😂😂😂

Y’all set y’all selves up.

— BLACKLIVESMATTER (@Jasamgurlie) April 8, 2022

i see people on here mad at the Will Smith Oscar ban and I literally don't know if they think it was too much or not enough. Also why they have a preference.

— matt christman (@cushbomb) April 8, 2022

Academy banned Will Smith for 10 years, but not:

Kevin Spacey
Harvey Weinstein
Casey Affleck
Woody Allen
Mel Gibson
Roman Polanski
James Franco
James Toback
Dustin Hoffman

And there are allegations against Jeffrey Tambor, Richard Dreyfuss, James Woods, and Ansel Elgort. #Oscarshttps://t.co/iu6SXSnOoT

— Paul Dawkins (@Paul__Dawkins) April 8, 2022

How exactly did Will Smith slapping a guy cause more controversy than Ezra Miller being an actual psychopath?

— Frankie 🏳️‍⚧️ (@frankieA_99) April 2, 2022

Will Smith banned for 10 years which is…extreme & unnecessary. But the Academy gave Roman Polanski an Oscar & the crowd stood up with a standing ovation. It's all a mess. I hope people stop worshipping celebrities & politicians. You're seeing behind the curtain now. It's ugly.

— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) April 8, 2022

Will Smith is really banned from the Oscars for 10 years for a small slap while rapists, pedophiles and abuser are welcomed with a big hug

— Bella 49 days 💕 (@Nonisbitch) April 8, 2022

Will Smith being banned from the Oscars for 10 years is astounding. They really kept giving awards to known sexual abusers and pedophiles, but a slap is really where they’re going to start banning people.

— Natalie Dallas (@DallasasinTexas) April 8, 2022

winning an oscar after a 10 year ban might be the only thing cooler than winning an oscar after smacking someone https://t.co/OWBcsGCacK

— guy (@guymrdth) April 8, 2022

Mark my words (I would say "favorite this tweet" but who knows what the TL is in 10 years): the first moment Will is back on the Oscar stage, even if just as a presenter, he gets a standing ovation

— Naima Cochrane (@naima) April 8, 2022

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for some form of consequence. But for the Oscars to ban him for 10 f**king years… that’s excessive.

— sunny (@starshowers89) April 8, 2022

Times intern Kai Grady contributed to this story.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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