Could Will Smith Lose His Oscar For Chris Rock Slap?

Never has the Oscars broadcast actual violence between two celebrities — or at least, that was the case until last night. After Best Actor winner Will Smith slapped host Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards, people are asking if Smith will have to return his newly won Oscar. But can that happen?

The slap occurred while Rock was presenting the award for Best documentary. After spying Jada Pinkett Smith in the crowd, Rock made a joke about her new bald look, saying that she could be in G.I. Jane 2. Smith recently changed her hair after struggling with the autoimmune disorder alopecia. Shortly after the joke was made, Will Smith stormed onstage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat, Smith could be heard repeatedly yelling “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

Later in the program, Smith took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in King Richard. It was a moment that left many stunned. It’s also one could cost Smith his newly acquired Oscar. Though its unclear whether that will happen, the New York Post looked into the Academy’s conduct code to try and figure out if Smith will be able to keep his award.

The conduct code was released in 2017 in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. At the time, AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson said that “members must also behave ethically by upholding the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity.”

“There is no place in the Academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency. The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality. The Board of Governors believes that these standards are essential to the Academy’s mission and reflective of our values,” Hudson wrote.

As nice as that sounds, what it practically means in this situation remains unclear. There aren’t any clear guidelines about what it takes to be removed from the Academy. In fact, the Academy has never revoked an award once it’s been given. So if history is any indication, it seems unlikely that Smith will be asked to return anything.

In this complicated situation, it’s helpful to look to one of the Oscars’ most controversial winners. Roman Polanski has been a fugitive of the U.S. criminal justice system since 1978 after he was on trial for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. This case makes him the most egregious example of a member of an Academy member who has violated this organization’s modern code of conduct. And yet it has never been reported whether or not Polanski has been asked to return his Oscar. In 2018, he lost his request to be reinstated in the Academy, but that just means Polanski can no longer vote on winners.

Clearly, Smith slapping Rock is nothing compared to the horrific sexual assault charges Polanski committed. But if the very worst example in Academy history — a man who is an actual criminal as well as a fugitive of the law — wasn’t asked to return his Oscars, it’s unlikely that Smith will be asked to give back anything. But who knows? The Oscars are nothing if not wildly unpredictable and often hypocritical. They could surprise us all.

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