Team Smith or Team Rock?


Jennifer Crider, Contributing Writer

The world watched in shock as Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in response to a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, at the Academy Awards on March 27.

This incident has attracted a lot of media attention, and the public is left to decide if they side with Smith or Rock.

“I am team Smith because someone disrespected his family, and he thought that’s what he needed to do,” said Mackenzie Reid, senior business management major.

Other GC students are torn on who they side with.

“I am on both sides because Smith knew his wife was insecure about her hair which made him act irrationally,” said Chris Arnold, junior management information systems major. “It was an unprofessional reaction, but I can also see why the joke made Will so mad.”

Smith’s use of violence has generated conversations on if or when violence is justified.

“Even though Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia, I think it escalated too far,” said Dani Mathis, junior early childhood education major. “They should’ve talked in private. He didn’t need to assault Chris Rock on television.”

Even people who support Smith’s actions disagree with the way he handled the situation afterwards.

“I dont think his speech afterwards was a good apology because he never apologized to Chris Rock. It wasn’t a real apology,” Reid said. “It wasn’t the worst thing that Will Smith could’ve done, but I think Chris deserved a private apology.”

Dr. Mikkel Christensen, a mass communication professor, holds a doctorate degree in crisis communications and has an extensive background as an investigative reporter.

“I dont think his reaction as he won the award was effective,” Christensen said. “He tried to justify it by saying the person he portrayed in the movie ‘King Richard’ was a protector of his family. You don’t lead out with the justification.”

Many people on social media criticized Smith’s justification for his use of violence.

“He said ‘love makes us do crazy things’ in his speech which is another justification,” Christensen said. “This isn’t trustworthy, and it’s an excuse that abusers often use, so it wasn’t a powerful explanation.”

Christensen believes that there would have been better ways for Smith and his team to handle this incident.

“He should have admitted fault in his initial speech, but the instagram post afterwards was better because he apologized directly to Chris Rock,” Christensen said. “He explained that he did it because his wife has a disease, but that took a smaller role compared to the speech.”

Providing an explanation in response to a crisis makes an apology look insincere, and it is more effective to immediately apologize.

“Generally, we root for people who admit fault and say they are sorry. People want to see someone who messed up and get back up,” Christensen said. “It helped that he resigned from the academy too because it shows he is ready to take consequences.”

When a shocking event that captures mass attention occurs, companies use these events in their advertising.

“Will Smith is so well known that of course it is a huge interest for the public. It happened on the biggest stage, and everyone knows Will Smith and a lot of people know Chris Rock,” Christensen said.

Companies such as SunnyD, MealPal, Fashion Nova, and many more have created memes of Smith assaulting Rock to advertise their products. A cryptocurrency investor, Ryan Watson, utilized this incident by making a cryptocurrency called “Will Smith Inu Coin” which generated more than $3 million dollars in a week.

“There’s a right way to use these high visibility situations in advertising. It’s problematic if you make light of or celebrate violence,” Christensen said. “Showing the violence could be traumatizing for certain people to see.”

Rock has also financially benefited from this incident. Directly following the Oscars, ticket sales for Rock’s upcoming comedy tour increased due to high demand. Although companies and Rock are profiting off of Smith’s actions, the attention on this subject has not helped Smith.

“If you have a niche product or purpose, it’s okay to be liked by only a minority of people. But Will makes money from his movies because nobody hates him,” Christensen said. “There’s a lot at stake. He has to win over the broad group that thinks that it’s unacceptable to slap someone.”