The Rest Of The Ethics Train Wreck: The Academy’s Will Smith Punishment And Apology

The Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences decided that the consequences for actor Will Smith’s attack on comedian and presenter Chris Rock during the 94th Oscars telecast should be and now will be for Smith to be banned from all Academy events, including the Oscars, for a decade—10 years.

Smith, who had already resigned from the Academy last week and promised to accept whatever punishment the Academy handed down, responded with a statement saying “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”

The Academy announced,

The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage. 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.

Today, the Board of Governors convened a meeting to discuss how best to respond to Will Smith’s actions at the Oscars, in addition to accepting his resignation. The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards.

We want to express our deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank 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. We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.


1. The Academy’s apologies for its mishandling of the situation during the ceremony and broadcast was appropriate and necessary. Good for them. I didn’t think they would mention it. The statement also, as I interpret it, represents indirect but clear criticism of telecast producer Will Packer. I will be amazed if he is asked to handle the show next year.

2. Interestingly (and appropriately), the statement praises everyone except Smith and the audience that cheered him. It is, again, implied criticism by omission.

3. The appreciation for Rock’s handling of the situation was also necessary and appropriate.

4. A ten year ban is more than the slap on the wrist I was expecting—again, bravo to the Academy. A decade is a long time in the career of a movie star, especially one in his 50s, like Will Smith. He can still be nominated for Oscars, but right now, he is being dropped from projects as if he were radioactive. Eventually Smith will get another role in a major movie, but if the box office shows that his now-shattered nice guy image has crippled his appeal and bankability, he could be through as a star. If that turns out to be the case, he deserves tears from no one.

5. From the beginning, the reaction of others, including the news media, to the Smith-Rock episode was more interesting from an ethics perspective than the episode itself. For that, the answer to the question “What’s going on here?” was clear, or should have been: a narcissistic super-star celebrity lacked the self-control, common sense, respect for his colleagues and his audience and basic ethics alarms to stop himself from revealing his serious character flaws on national live TV. He engaged in unprovoked violence against an innocent victim, and a Hollywood audience of similarly afflicted celebrities couldn’t manage a decent and responsible response. There should not have been an ethics train wreck. Unfortunately, the episode challenged journalists, critics, pundits and social media, as well as the public, to demonstrate their ethical reasoning powers and integrity. Depressing to me, most of these demonstrated that they didn’t know ethics from Silly Putty. A recent non-ethical reaction: many are blaming Smith’s wife for “bullying him” into slapping Rock. Smith is a grown man, at least physically, and we all are responsible for our own actions. I love my wife (It was her birthday yesterday!), but if she said, “The neighbor insulted me: go attack him,” my answer would be a crisp and clear “No.” If Smith couldn’t manage that, he shouldn’t be allowed out in public.

Here is another example from today: the comments on the Academy’s punishment of Smith on Instapundit.

That is a blog run by a law professor; its contributors are mostly educated and erudite. Yet among the 102 reader comments, only a few indicated any ethical comprehension at al, or, for the most part, even minimal critical thinking skills. Reading them once again made me wonder what I’m doing with my life.

Representative samples:

C’mon, people. Much ado about (almost) nothing. There’s a war on, inflation is spiraling, crime is on the upswing, the southern border is disappearing – and you’re all aTwitter about this?

Yes, because a functioning society needs to be able to metaphorically walk and chew gum at the same time. Events like the Oscar scandal affect the setting of societal standards and priorities, and that’s crucially important no matter what else is going on. I detest that argument; its like saying that police shouldn’t enforce laws against shoplifting and vandalism because there are murders and rapes to solve.

Who did will Smith piss off to generate this insane level of phony outrage?

What kind of brain arrives at such a conclusion? Anyone who isn’t outraged at an audience member assaulting a performer during a performance has been raised in a zoo.

I’m on Smith’s side here. Attacking his wife was absurd and insulting, and Will should have punched Rock in the face and broken Rock’s twisted nose. Will has already resigned. So the Oscars can stick it where their sun doesn’t shine.

That reaction should be satire, but I have read and heard similar sentiments  from many others

A white male hetero actor would be banned forever, and the academy would ask them to return the Oscar.

Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polanski committed more serious crimes than Smith and weren’t required to return their Oscars. Both are white and their crimes signaled their sexual orientation. So many opinions on this matter are proclaimed by people who don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

Let’s imagine the next Academy Awards event, 2023, and an F5 tornado lands on top of the venue, then rises back into the sky. All past and present Hollywood stars carried away like little Dorothy, never to be seen again.
Would humanity suffer? Would our lives be poorer?
No and no.

Another “this isn’t worth paying attention to” argument that misses the point.

It’s all too complicated, and too much of it private, to figure this out. In the end, it was a slap. A hard slap, yeah, but when’s the last time (since dueling) anyone has been punished for a hard slap? A hard slap that left the victim standing exactly where he was standing before the slap?

Who are the morons that make this argument? I’ve seen it on Facebook too. Just try slapping someone in your workplace and see what happens. A slap is battery just as much as a punch is.

Will Smith, the actor, is widely loved by audiences and that won’t be abated by the bad press or by silly official bans. I want to watch his movies, and I don’t care about is tiny little slap.

A rationalization orgy. All of it is completely irrelevant to the ethical issues.

7 thoughts on “The Rest Of The Ethics Train Wreck: The Academy’s Will Smith Punishment And Apology

  1. Kudos to you, Jack, for reading the comments thread at Instapundit. I only read the main posts as I can’t stand the mind pollution. OK, very rarely will I read the comments, then I regret it. Your neat summary of inane comments on Will Smith just reinforces my stance.

  2. Dollars to doughnuts that Smith’s PR machine is already planning for a celebration of Smith’s “comeback” in 10 years time. And oh what it celebration it will be – complete with a modicum of contrition. And the word of the day will be “heroic.”

    • Ricky Gervais: “Hopefully, he’ll only do six with good behavior.” If the Academy had hired the best host available rather than the best black host available, maybe the entire incident could have been avoided.

  3. “A recent non-ethical reaction: many are blaming Smith’s wife for “bullying him” into slapping Rock. Smith is a grown man, at least physically, and we all are responsible for our own actions.”

    I describe the Jada focused post-slap commentary like this:
    Acknowledging total accountability for Will does not preclude recognizing/highlighting the profound unhealthy influence of Jada and isn’t unethical.
    “Grown man” The mind does not age the way the body does.

    Disparaging Jada, especially with one-liners, simply calls attention to her fairly obvious toxic influence in a rather amusing manner as I have already posted. Jada’s insecurity manifests with (passive aggressive) behavior designed to keep Will off balance, thereby blind to the manipulation and his personal power. Anyone with experience in the spell-bound phenomenon will almost instantly recognize the signs.
    Batman predicts this incident will provide the necessary impetus for Will to finally offload the controlling bald-headed witch because we are witnessing the breaking of a spell in real time.

    • Acknowledging, as with acknowledging all the other factors, real or not, that may have led Smith to do what he did, isn’t the same as blaming. Most of those anti-Jada arguments are blaming her.

      • This is more severely black person stuff. The incident itself was a bitch slap, a uniquely black phenomenon where a black guy insults and emasculates another black guy by slapping him. This Jada Pinkett Smith stuff is the really, really toxic trope of black women emasculating black men and driving them out of relationships. These are very fraught and turbulent waters of which I, for one, will steer well clear. Would that Mrs. Q would wade into these waters for our benefit.

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