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Richard Williams says stands by Will Smith nearly a year after the Oscar-winning actor, who portrayed Venus and Serena’s father in King Richard, slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars.
In a new interview with iTV that aired Monday, Williams — who last March released a brief statement via his son and spokesperson Chavoita LeSane — said that he would never be “disgusted” with the actor.
“I’ll always stand by him. I think he’s done the best that he needed to,” Williams, who had three strokes back in around 2018 that left him with a few communication challenges, told the U.K. outlet. “I would never be disgusted with Mr. Smith. Matter of fact, I appreciate Mr. Smith.”
Williams added that he not only doesn’t “see nothing wrong with” Smith, but he doesn’t believe the actor’s 10-year ban from the Oscars and other Academy events is appropriate. Instead, the respected tennis coach and tennis family’s patriarch says it “definitely should be” lifted and should have lasted “no more than a week.”
“It’s time for everyone to forgive Will Smith,” he added.
As for those who might question his support of Smith, Williams shirked any criticism, noting that “people are going to say good or bad about me anyway. I don’t give a damn what no one says good or bad about me. I’m always good about myself.”
In a previous statement given around shortly after the incident last March to NBC News, Williams said he didn’t “condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self-defense.”
In her own statement, while speaking to Gayle King for a CBS Mornings segment in February, Serena Williams expressed that she understood making mistakes while under pressure.
“I’ve been in a position where I’ve been under a lot of pressure and made a tremendous amount of mistakes, and 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,'” she said. “We’re all imperfect, and we’re all human, and let’s just be kind to each other.”
Discussion around the year-old incident has emerged ahead of this year’s ceremony due in large part to Chris Rock’s latest comedy special, Selective Outrage, which streamed Saturday as Netflix’s first globally live event. In the special, Rock, who had remained publicly quiet about the incident since it happened — only testing material about it in various comedy shows around the country — finally responded through a series of jokes in which he emphasized that “I am not a victim.”
“Will Smith practices selective outrage,” Rock told the audience. “Outrage because everybody knows what the fuck happened. Everybody that really knows, knows that I have nothing to do with that shit. I didn’t have any entanglements.”
Rock was referencing relationship challenges between Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, which she discussed openly on her Facebook series Red Table Talk.
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