Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Will Smith Did a Bad, Bad Thing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attends the 2019 NBA Awards at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, on June 24, 2019. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 30 March 2022 08:11 AM
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said Will Smith's actions at Sunday's Academy Awards were wrong because they inferred women were weak, and they "perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community."
The basketball Hall of Famer and activist wrote a commentary on Substack about the effects of Smith hitting and cursing at comedian Chris Rock in defense of a joke aimed at the actor's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
"When Will Smith stormed onto the Oscar stage to strike Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife's short hair, he did a lot more damage than just to Rock's face," Jabbar wrote. "With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community."
Jabbar disagreed with people who have "romanticized" that by storming the stage to slap Rock, and then, after returning to his seat, cursing at Rock, Smith showed he was a "loving husband defending his wife."
"Actually, it was the opposite. Smith's slap was also a slap to women," Jabbar wrote. "If Rock had physically attacked Pinkett Smith, Smith's intervention would have been welcome. Or if he'd remained in his seat and yelled his post-slap threat, that would have been unnecessary, but understandable.
"But by hitting Rock, he announced that his wife was incapable of defending herself — against words. From everything I'd seen of Pinkett Smith over the years, she's a very capable, tough, smart woman who can single-handedly take on a lame joke at the Academy Awards show."
Jabbar chastised Smith for using his best actor award victory speech to explain his actions.
"Worse than the slap was Smith's tearful, self-serving acceptance speech in which he rambled on about all the women in the movie King Richard that he's protected," Jabbar wrote. "Those who protect don't brag about it in front of 15 million people. They just do it and shut up."
Jabbar said that "the Black community also takes a direct hit from Smith" because it reinforced the notion that Blacks are "more prone to violence and less able to control their emotions."
"Smith just gave comfort to the enemy by providing them with the perfect optics they were dreaming of," Jabbar wrote. "Fox News host Jeanine Pirro wasted no time going full-metal jacket racist by declaring the Oscars are 'not the hood.'
"What would she have said if Brad Pitt slapped Ricky Gervais? This isn't Rodeo Drive? Many will be reinvigorated to continue their campaign to marginalize African Americans and others through voter suppression campaign."
The 74-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers player said Smith should admit "the harm he's done to others" with his outburst.
"I don't want to see him punished or ostracized because of this one, albeit a big one, mistake," Jabbar wrote. "I just want this to be a cautionary tale for others not to romanticize or glorify bad behavior. And I want Smith to be the man who really protects others — by admitting the harm he's done to others."
After Jabbar's commentary was posted online, Smith did apologize to Rock, the academy and viewers watching the Oscars from home.
Jabbar did commend Rock for managing "to handle the moment with grace and maturity." The comedian will not be pressing charges against Smith, the Los Angeles Police Department told CNN.