(The Hill) — Veteran actor Harry J. Lennix said that Will Smith must return his Oscar in the wake of Smith’s onstage altercation with comedian Chris Rock late last month.
In a Variety column published on Saturday, Lennix, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, wrote that Smith needs to realize that actions have consequences, adding that the best option for him is to return his award.
“Smith needs to express-mail his golden trophy back to the Academy and publicly state something to the effect of: ‘Out of respect for the 94 years of honor conferred upon this award, I do not in good conscience feel worthy of being its custodian,’” Lennix wrote in his column.
“Of the many unsettling things said in the aftermath of the slap, the most galling to me was his reference to the influence of a higher power during his surreal acceptance speech after he won for his work in ‘King Richard’ less than an hour after his act of violence — and the Academy’s equally shocking decision not to eject Smith from the ceremony,” Lennix added.
Smith slapped Rock after the comedian joked about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith then won the best male actor Oscar later in the evening for his portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’s father, Richard Williams, in the biopic “King Richard.”
Lennix also wrote that the incident stripped the “prestige” from the award ceremony, noting that other attendees gave Smith a standing ovation after he won the Oscar.
“The stain on the Motion Picture Academy cannot be easily remediated. The only hope for a justifiable grace must involve Smith voluntarily returning his award for best actor,” Lennix concluded in his column.
The academy’s Board of Governors announced on Friday they have placed Smith on a 10-year ban from attending any academy event as a result of his altercation with Rock.
In a statement to The Hill, Smith, who resigned as a member of the academy earlier this month, accepted the punishment handed to him by the Board of Governors, saying, “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”