Serena Williams finally breaks silence on Will Smith Oscars slap

The retired tennis star has addressed the infamous Oscars incident that overshadowed her family's awards night celebrations.

Pictured left is Serena Williams and the right photo shows the infamous Will Smith Oscars slap on Chris Rock.
Serena Williams has spoken publicly for the first time about the infamous Will Smith Oscars slap that overshadowed her family's celebrations around the film, King Richard. Pic: Getty

Serena Williams has finally addressed actor Will Smith's infamous Oscars slap that overshadowed her family's celebrations at the iconic awards night. Williams was asked about the incident involving the star of King Richard - the biographical sports drama about the Williams sisters' father and coach, who started the girls on their path to becoming tennis superstars.

The incident, which saw Smith slap fellow actor and Oscars host Chris Rock over a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair (she has alopecia), took much of the shine off the Williams family's celebratory night. Smith won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams in the film, but was later banned from the awards night for 10 years and lucky to keep his award.

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In a conversation with Gayle King on Wednesday's CBS Mornings, Serena was asked about the controversy and what her feelings were on the drama after plenty of time to reflect. While she admitted that Smith's infamous slap did 'overshadow' the family's big moment, the 41-year-old sympathised with Smith and said the actor deserved to be forgiven for his 'mistake'.

"I thought it was such an incredible film, and I feel that there was an incredible film after that with Questlove that kind of was overshadowed," Williams began. "But I also feel that I've been in a position where I've been under a lot of pressure and I've 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.'"

Williams ended by saying: "We're all imperfect, and we're all human and let’s just be kind to each other. That's often forgotten a lot." It is the first time Serena has publicly addressed the Oscars slap controversy.

Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary, which ultimately went to Questlove's Summer of Soul, when he made a joke about Pinkett Smith's bald head — apparently unaware she has alopecia. An enraged Smith stormed the stage and slapped him. He then returned to his seat and shouted, more than once, "Keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth."

The show continued with attendees and viewers initially unsure whether or not it was a bit. Smith won — and got a standing ovation. In his speech, he talked awkwardly started by talking about how "Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family..." Behind the scenes, police officers on-site reportedly asked whether Rock wanted Smith arrested. Smith wasn't removed from the event — and went on to celebrate his win at an Oscars after-party.

Smith later publicly apologised — more than once — calling his behaviour "unacceptable and inexcusable." To the Williams family, he said he "deeply regret that my behaviour has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us." Richard Williams told NBC News: "We don’t know all the details of what happened. But we don’t condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self-defence."

Serena Williams upset with US Open farewell match

Serena also admitted in the same interview on CBS that she was "not very happy at all" about the way her extraordinary career ended at last year's US Open. Williams was knocked out of her home slam by Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic amid much fanfare, with tributes to the 23-time grand slam winner playing out at Flushing Meadows before and after her matches.

However, Williams' hopes of a fairytale run into the second week of the New York grand slam were crushed as Tomljanovic ran away with a thrilling 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 third round win. When asked how she felt after waving goodbye to the US Open crowd for the final time, Serena couldn't hide her disappointment about how her final match played out.

Seen here, Serena Williams speaking after her farewell match at the 2022 US Open.
Serena Williams said farewell to tennis during emotional scenes at the 2022 US Open. Pic: Getty (Tim Clayton - Corbis via Getty Images)

"That's a really good question, no-one's asked me that yet," Williams said. "I was actually not very happy at all, just because of the result.

"I was there to keep going and to keep winning, and it was more or less like, I can't believe I let that match go more than anything... Obviously it was a great moment and a great memory and I don't feel like I've left anything, but I just felt like what I could have done better that day."

Williams has teased fans in the past about a potential comeback to tennis but her reaction to NFL superstar Tom Brady's retirement news this week all but confirms that the 41-year-old has hung up the racquet for good. Williams - who is a massive Brady fan - responded to his retirement announcing by saying: “I’m getting teary-eyed watching this. Sad to see you go. Welcome to the retirement world again….Again.”

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