As everyone expected, the discourse following the Will Smith–Chris Rock slap incident at the 2022 Academy Awards has been the focus of conversation in the days since. Just about everybody has been asked their opinion about it (including the President of the United States) and many people have been more than happy to provide their thoughts on who was right, wrong, or somewhere in-between.
You can add NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the list. The outspoken activist and public figure, who has never been shy about sharing his thoughts, penned a post on his Substack about the slap heard ’round Hollywood and shared his thoughts on why it was “Will Smith did a bad, bad thing.”
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,” wrote Kareem. “With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community.”
The Hall-of-Famer shared that he had met Smith once during an appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and he certainly didn’t want to see Smith punished or ostracized. However, he did think it was a moment to remind men that there are better ways to defend women than by using physical violence.
“Smith’s slap was also a slap to women,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar. “This patronizing, paternal attitude infantilizes women and reduces them to helpless damsels needing a Big Strong Man to defend their honor least they swoon from the vapors. If he was really doing it for his wife, and not his own need to prove himself, he might have thought about the negative attention this brought on them, much harsher than the benign joke. That would have been truly defending and respecting her.”