Will Smith slapping Chris Rock following comments the comedian made about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, at the Oscars has garnered mixed reactions. A segment of the public has commended Smith for defending his wife, while another has derided the actor for his actions. One legendary figure in the latter camp is NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who penned a lengthy op-ed slamming Smith and arguing that his treatment of Rock enforces stereotypes about the Black community. Titled “Will Smith Did a Bad, Bad Thing,” Abdul-Jabbar put Smith’s assault on Rock in a historical context, deeming the exchange another opportunity for white supremacists to paint us in a negative light.
“One of the main talking points from those supporting the systemic racism in America is characterizing Blacks as more prone to violence and less able to control their emotions,” the six-time NBA champion and former NBA MVP wrote. “Smith just gave comfort to the enemy by providing them with the perfect optics they were dreaming of. Many will be reinvigorated to continue their campaign to marginalize African Americans and others through voter suppression campaign.”
Abdul-Jabbar also challenged the belief that Rock’s comments concerning Smith’s wife absolved the recent Oscar-winner of his actions, arguing that Smith’s defense actually reinforced stereotypes surrounding women as well and was counterproductive to quelling those notions. “By hitting Rock, he announced that his wife was incapable of defending herself—against words,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “This patronizing, paternal attitude infantilizes women and reduces them to helpless damsels needing a Big Strong Man to defend their honor least they swoon from the vapors.”
Smith has since publicly apologized to Rock in a statement posted on his social media accounts.