Serena Williams addresses Will Smith Oscars slap scandal nearly 1 year later: 'We're all human'

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 19: (L-R) Serena Williams, Will Smith and Venus Williams attend the 33rd Annual Producers Guild Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on March 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Serena Williams hadn't spoken out about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars until now. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Serena Williams is addressing Will Smith's Oscars slap — nearly one year after it happened.

The retired tennis superstar was asked about the King Richard star's outburst in a conversation with Gayle King on Wednesday's CBS Mornings. The incident, which saw Smith slap Chris Rock over a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair (she has alopecia), stole the Williams family's celebratory night. The biographical sports drama, produced by Serena and her sister Venus, tells the story of Richard Williams, the tennis coach and father of the superstar athletes.

"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."

These are Williams's first comments about the March 27, 2022 slap, which resulted in Smith — who won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as the tennis coach— being banned from the Oscars, and Academy events, for 10 years. (He resigned from the Academy.)

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 apologized — more than once — calling his behavior "unacceptable and inexcusable." To the Williams family, he said he "deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us."

Richard Williams, through his son Chavoita LeSane, 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-defense."

As for Serena, right after the show, she posted a social media clip showing her in the audience, stunned with her mouth open, as it played out. In a second video, she said, with a look of disbelief, "I just sat down, because I was like, I gotta put that drink down."

Smith and Rock still haven't publicly made amends after the incident. Late last year, Smith's film Emancipation was released and he did some press for it reflecting on his actions. "I lost it," he admitted in one interview.

His most recent Instagram post, from Wednesday, also is a nod to his year. It's a video of Disney on Ice's Aladdin taking a spill and then getting back up again. Smith, who played that character in a 2019 film, wrote, "This is me in 2022."