Richard Williams on Will Smith’s Oscars slap: ‘We don’t condone hitting anyone’

Richard Williams on Will Smith’s Oscars slap: ‘We don’t condone hitting anyone’
The father of Venus and Serena Williams, who is played by Will Smith in his latest film, was asked about the actor’s on-stage skirmish

The real-life tennis coach portrayed by Will Smith in his latest Oscar-winning performance has distanced himself from the film star’s on-stage skirmish with Chris Rock at the awards ceremony.

Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis titans Venus and Serena Williams, was the subject of last year’s biopic King Richard, for which Smith won the Oscar award for best male actor.

In his acceptance speech after slapping Rock, Smith compared himself to Mr Williams’ famous on-air defence of his daughter Venus during a TV interview in 1995.

“Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father – just like they said about Richard Williams,” said Smith. “But love will make you do crazy things.”

On Monday, however, in a statement NBC News via his son and spokesperson Chavoita LeSane, Mr Williams said: “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.”

Smith ignited instant uproar across the world on Sunday night when he strode up to Rock during a speech and slapped him in the face following a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rock had quipped that he “couldn’t wait” to see Pinkett Smith, who shaved her head last year after suffering hair loss due to alopecia, in an imaginary sequel to GI Jane, a 1997 film about a female Navy lieutenant who buzzes off all her hair as part of a bid to join a special forces unit.

After sitting down again, Smith was heard shouting to Rock: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f**ing mouth!”

Mr LeSane said his father was surprised when Smith slapped Rock, but declined to comment on the comparison in Smith’s speech.

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Mr Williams coached his daughters to play tennis from the age of four and a half, eventually helping them become world champions, with Serena Williams widely considered one of the greatest tennis players ever.

In a famous 1995 ABC interview with Venus Williams, Mr Williams objected to the reporter’s manner of questioning and chewed him out on camera.