Serena Williams Forgives Will Smith Over 'King Richard' Oscar Slap

Tennis star Serena Williams called for empathy regarding Will Smith's infamous Oscars slap. In an interview with Gayle King on CBS Mornings, Smith discussed the biopic King Richard, in which he played Williams' father, and won the Best Actor award for shortly after slapping host Chris Rock. Williams, whose temper could sometimes be explosive on the court, asked for forgiveness and understanding concerning Smith's actions. 

"I thought it was such an incredible film, and I feel that there was an incredible film (honored) after that with Questlove that kind of was overshadowed," Williams told King. Her reference was to Questlove's documentary Summer of Soul, which won an award for Best Documentary. "I also feel that I've been in a position where I've been under a lot of pressure and made a tremendous amount of mistakes," Williams said. "I'm the kind of person that's like, I've been there, I've made a mistake, it's not the end of the world. We're all imperfect and we're all human, and let's just be kind to each other. And I think that's often forgotten a lot."

She was at the Oscars with her sister, Venus Williams, to witness the incident, which still resonates today. In April, Serena's father, Richard Williams, the man Smith played in the film King Richardbroke his silence on the incident and said he wasn't condoning violence, but he believed there was more to the story. "We don't know all the details of what happened," Richard Williams told NBC News via his son Chavoita LeSane. "But we don't condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it's in self-defense." According to LeSane, Williams was surprised to see Smith slap Rock, who made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair.  As a result, Smith has been barred from the Oscars and its events for the next decade, and he and Rock have not publicly spoken about the incident. Smith has claimed he has reached out but has been rebuffed by Rock.

Smith opened up about his now-infamous night at the 2022 Oscars in a November interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. As Smith pointed out, the incident was more complex than it seemed. "I was gone, dude. That was rage that had been bottled for a really long time," Smith said when asked about the viral moment. The reality of his actions finally hit him after returning home from the award show a few hours later. While explaining the situation to his nephew, he said he suddenly felt embarrassed. He said: "He's the sweetest little boy. He stayed up late to see his Uncle Will. We are sitting in the kitchen, he's on my lap holding the Oscar, [and he asked] 'Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?'" Smith remembered thinking about his nephew: "'Why are you trying to Oprah me?' I was like, it was a mess. I don't want to go too far into it to give people more to misunderstand." He did not explain his actions much, but he acknowledged that there was more to it than most people realized. At one point, he said: "You just never know what somebody is going through."