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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Will Smith ‘perpetuated stereotypes’ against Black people with slap

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said that actor Will Smith’s altercation with comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards “perpetuated stereotypes” against Black people. 

“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,” the NBA’s all-time leading scorer wrote in a Substack column published Tuesday. “With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community.” 

The NBA Hall of Famer also wrote in his column that some fellow celebrities have agreed with Smith’s actions toward Rock, noting comedian Tiffany Haddish’s remarks on the altercation that romanticized Smith as a loving husband who defended his wife’s name.

“Actually, it was the opposite. Smith’s slap was also a slap to women. 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,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote.  

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,” he added.

Abdul-Jabbar noted in his column that Smith’s incident will allow more pundits to continue to push a narrative that Black people are “more prone to violence and less able to control their emotions,” also applauding Rock for handling the situation with “grace and maturity.”

“I don’t want to see him punished or ostracized because of this one, albeit a big one, mistake. 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,” Abdul-Jabbar concluded.

Smith, who won best actor for his performance in “King Richard,” issued a statement on Monday apologizing to Rock, the Academy and the audience for his actions, calling them “unacceptable and inexcusable.”

The Academy announced earlier that day it will conduct a formal review of the incident, condemning Smith’s actions toward Rock as well.

Tags Chris Rock Kareem Abdul-Jabbar substack The Academy Awards Will Smith

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