The father of Venus and Serena Williams said Monday he condemns violence a day after Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars ceremony — and then won an Academy Award for playing him in the movie “King Richard.”
“We don’t know all the details of what happened,” Richard Williams, via his son Chavoita LeSane, told NBC News. “But we don’t condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self-defense.”
LeSane said his father was as surprised as anyone when Smith suddenly retaliated against Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, at the Sunday spectacle.
But LeSane, who has been serving as Richard William’s spokesman since his 80-year-old father had a stroke, declined to go beyond his statement when asked for comment on Smith’s Oscar acceptance speech.
In it, Smith tearfully apologized to the academy but also likened slapping Rock to Richard Williams defending his daughters as he coached them into tennis superstars.
“I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams,” Smith said. “But love will make you do crazy things.”
NBC News has reached out to Venus and Serena Williams but so far neither has commented on Sunday’s shocking turn of events.
Both were watching from their seats at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood when Smith, apparently angered by Rock joking about his wife’s shaved head (she suffers from alopecia, which causes hair loss) went after the comedian.
A few hours after Richard Williams weighed in, the Academy Awards said in a statement on Twitter that it “condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show.”
“We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law,” the tweet stated.
There was no immediate response to the latest developments from Rock or Smith.
But Smith was seen partying after the ceremony Sunday at the Vanity Fair Oscar bash with his wife and children (sons Trey and Jaden and daughter Willow).
Smith’s on-stage confrontation with the Rock quickly became the biggest story to emerge from the 94th Academy Awards, with many celebrities condemning the slap and others chiming in with support for the first-time Oscar winner.
Comedians were especially critical of Smith.
“Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a comedian,” Kathy Griffin wrote on Twitter. “Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”
Rob Reiner said Smith “owes Chris Rock a huge apology.”
“There is no excuse for what he did,” Reiner tweeted. “He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges. The excuses he made tonight were b——t.”
Corky Siemaszko is a senior writer for NBC News Digital.