Serena Williams: what has tennis star said about King Richard actor Will Smith’s Oscars slap?

Will Smith played Serena Williams’ father in the Oscar-winning King Richard

Despite taking place nearly a year ago, the infamous “slap” heard around the world at the 2022 Oscar awards ceremony continues to be a contentious point of discussion.

In case you need reminding, during last year’s show, after Chris Rock made a disparaging remark about his wife’s alopecia, Will Smith stormed the stage, struck the comedian, and angrily demanded Rock keep his wife’s name “out of your f***ing mouth!”

The incident overshadowed what was otherwise a celebratory night for the film industry, and led to 10-year Academy ban for Smith. A year on, celebrities and famous names are still weighing in with their opinions on everything that happened.

Step forward tennis star Serena Williams, who has now given her take on Smith’s altercation. Here is everything you need to know.

What has Serena Williams said?

The tennis icon spoke to Gayle King on CBS Mornings about the event. Of course, “The Slap” took place just before Smith picked up the Best Actor award for his role as the Williams sisters’ father in the film King Richard.

Williams acknowledged that she too occasionally makes mistakes, saying: “I’ve been there. I’ve made a mistake. It’s not the end of the world. We’re all human, and let’s just be kind to each other.” Host King then asked: “King Richard had that moment at the Oscars, what did you feel about that?”

Serena Williams and Will Smith in March 2022 (Photo: MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Serena Williams and Will Smith in March 2022 (Photo: MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Serena Williams and Will Smith in March 2022 (Photo: MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Williams responded by saying that the biopic, and other “incredible” films featuring black stories that were being celebrated at the awards, were “overshadowed” by the incident.

“There was an incredible film after that with Questlove,” she said, referencing Summer Of Soul, the documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that took home the Best Documentary Feature award. That was the award that Rock was presenting when the slap took place.

“But I also feel that I have been in a position where I’ve been under a lot of pressure and I’ve made a tremendous amount of mistakes,” she added.

Smith slapping Rock at the Oscars in March 2022 made headlines around the world. Because of her bald head, Rock - who was presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature - had compared Smith’s wife Jada to "G.I. Jane.” At the time, Jada had only recently revealed that she was living with alopecia, which causes hair loss.

Smith later won Best Actor for his performance in King Richard, but he did not specifically apologise to Rock. A few days later, he issued an official apology, calling his actions “unacceptable and inexcusable”, and admitting they had "embarrassed" him. “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” he wrote.