Nearly three months after Will Smith walked onto the stage at the Academy Awards to slap Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife, everybody (and Chris’ mama) has an opinion on “The Slap.” Maybe it’s because sympathies fall all over the spectrum about who was right and who was wrong and what should have happened and what it means going forward, but there’s little doubt it’s going to go down as one of the most controversial and most talked-about moments in Oscars history. The latest person to comment on “The Slap” is Mike Tyson — somebody who knows a thing or two about hitting people, as well as finding himself in the middle of controversy.
Mike Tyson is one of the most dominant boxers of all time but has become known just as much for his eccentric lifestyle — a man who shared a bed with his tigers and who admits to tripping on toad venom. Even in the ring he made himself a pop culture topic after being disqualified from a 1997 boxing match with Evander Holyfield after he bit off a chunk of his opponent’s ear. When asked on Jimmy Kimmel Live if he had an opinion about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, Tyson said he thought it was “pretty interesting”:
It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Mike Tyson would be somewhat blasé about the use of physical violence in a situation where he felt it was — as Tyson put it — necessary. The boxer himself was caught on video repeatedly punching a fellow passenger on his plane who apparently continued to drunkenly bother Tyson, even after being asked to stop. The plane incident occurred just weeks after the Academy Awards brouhaha.
As Will Smith continues to lay low following his 10-year ban from all Academy-related events and his voluntary resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Chris Rock is working through the incident by focusing on his comedy tour. While he and Dave Chappelle have joked about their shared experience (Chappelle also had a recent on-stage altercation with a fan), Rock has not fully addressed the incident in his routine.
Everyone else in Hollywood, meanwhile, definitely has thoughts. Wanda Sykes has said she was “traumatized” by what happened to her longtime friend, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar saw wide-ranging ramifications, saying with one swing Will Smith “advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community.” Even Tyler Perry, who reportedly was among those who comforted Smith at the ceremony in the moments following the slap, spoke out to clarify that he actually left early to check on Chris Rock, and had told Smith he was “wrong in no uncertain terms.”
Others have had more empathy for the way Will Smith reacted. Steve Harvey joked that he’s not strong enough a Christian to have turned the other cheek the way Chris Rock did, and Terry Crews admitted he’s done worse in similar situations. Comedian Tiffany Haddish said the world may not like how Smith went about it, but for her, seeing a Black man stand up for his wife like that was “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
“The Slap” will continue to be a pop culture conversation starter for the foreseeable future, but for those interested in learning more about the professional, personal and controversial life of Mike Tyson, Hulu subscribers will be able to tune in for Mike, a limited series coming August 25. In the meantime, check out our 2022 movie release schedule to see what’s coming soon to theaters.