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Will Smith refused to leave Oscars ceremony after Chris Rock slap, Academy says

Will Smith was asked to leave Sunday’s Oscars after hitting Chris Rock but refused, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has said.

It comes as many questioned why the former Fresh Prince was allowed to remain seated in the front row after the incident.

"Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated," the academy said in a statement.

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"While we would like to clarify that Mr Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognise we could have handled the situation differently."

Disciplinary proceedings started

The Academy’s board of governors confirmed they have begun "disciplinary proceedings" against the actor for violating the group’s standards of conduct.

Smith has the opportunity to defend himself in a written response before the board meets on 18 April.

Actions against Smith could include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions.

"Mr Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television," the academy said.

"Mr. Rock, we apologise to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologise to our nominees, guests, and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event."

It comes after the film academy earlier condemned Smith’s onstage assault of Rock, and said it was launching a formal review.

Rock: ‘I’m still processing what happened’

Appearing publicly today in Boston for his sold-out comedy show, Rock said he is "still processing what happened" but will talk about it "at some point".

The comedian referenced the incident at a stand-up show and promised that when he did comment officially it would be "serious and funny".

Smith walked onto the stage and slapped Rock after he made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Referring to her shaved head, Rock said: "Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2."

While Smith initially laughed at the jibe, his wife appeared unimpressed – she revealed in 2018 she was diagnosed with alopecia and has spoken publicly about the challenges of hair loss.

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Smith went on to win an Oscar 10 minutes after the incident, using his speech to apologise to the Academy for his actions.

However, he only apologised to Rock the following day, writing on Instagram: "I was out of line and I was wrong."

Celebrities weigh in

A number of celebrities have weighed in on the slap, with actor Jim Carrey saying he was "sickened" by what he saw and that Smith "should have been arrested".

Meanwhile, OJ Simpson, the controversial NFL star who was acquitted in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, said Smith was "wrong" but he "understood the sentiment", having been the subject of comedic routines in the past.

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The incident has also seen ticket sales for Rock’s stand-up tour increase "dramatically".

One US ticket seller said sales had increased by more than 25 times in the 48 hours since the incident.

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