Richard Williams denounced violence when reacting to Will Smith striking comedian Chris Rock during Sunday's Oscars ceremony. Smith, who was later awarded his first Oscar for portraying the tennis coach father of Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard, evoked the real Williams in his acceptance speech when he said he "look[s] like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams." After Rock cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith while presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature, the King Richard actor approached Rock and smacked him with an open hand.
"We don't know all the details of what happened," Richard Williams, via his son Chavoita LeSane, told NBC News. "But we don't condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it's in self-defense."
LeSane said his father was surprised to see Smith strike Rock but did not offer further comment on Smith's acceptance speech.
"Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family," a crying Smith said to start his speech, adding he "got to protect" co-stars Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, and Demi Singleton. "I'm being called on in my life to love people. And to protect people. And to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you. You gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that's okay."
Smith concluded his speech with an apology to the Academy and his fellow Best Actor nominees but did not apologize for hitting Rock. "Thank you for this honor, thank you for this moment. I thank you on behalf of Richard and the entire Williams family," Smith said. "I hope the Academy invites me back."
In a brief statement following Sunday's broadcast, the Academy said it "does not condone violence of any form." Though Oscar organizers reportedly weighed Smith's removal from the ceremony, he remained in the Dolby Theatre.
"The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night's show," a spokesperson for the Academy said in another statement issued March 28. "We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law."