Fact Check

Did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Criticize Will Smith for Slapping Chris Rock?

In a viral message, the basketball great was quoted as saying Smith had "perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community."

Published March 31, 2022

CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 13: Basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks at the Fulfillment Fund's Spring Fundraising Celebration Honoring UCLA at Sony Pictures Studios on April 13, 2019 in Culver City, California. (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Fulfillment Fund) (John Sciulli/Getty Images for Fulfillment Fund)
Image courtesy of John Sciulli/Getty Images for Fulfillment Fund
In March 2022, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a widely-shared message in which he strongly criticized Will Smith for slapping Chris Rock.

In March 2022, several Snopes readers got in touch to ask about the authenticity and provenance of quotes they had read, attributed to basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in which he firmly criticized Will Smith for slapping Chris Rock at that year's Oscars.

For example, SportsKeeda.com published an article with the headline "'He did a lot more damage than just to Rock's face': Kareem Abdul Jabbar slams Will Smith over Chris Rock Oscars slap."

On social media, a lengthy message — attributed to Abdul-Jabbar — went viral. It typically began:

When Will Smith stormed onto the Oscar stage to strike Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife’s short hair, he did a lot more damage than just to Rock’s face. With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community...

The message was especially widely shared on Facebook, and the image below shows just a selection of posts containing Abdul-Jabbar's criticisms of Smith:

Those quotations were authentic, and the message was indeed written by Abdul-Jabbar. We are issuing a rating of "Correct Attribution."

Abdul-Jabbar originally published his thoughts on his Substack page, in a March 28 post headlined "Will Smith Did a Bad, Bad Thing," which bore the sub-headline "Slapping Chris Rock was also a blow to men, women, the entertainment industry, and the Black community":


Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem. “Will Smith Did a Bad, Bad Thing.” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 28 Mar. 2022, https://kareem.substack.com/p/will-smith-did-a-bad-bad-thing.
“Did Chris Rock Apologize to Will Smith?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/chris-rock-will-smith/. Accessed 31 Mar. 2022.
Nikhil, Nikita. “He Did a Lot More Damage than Just to Rock’s Face”: Kareem Abdul Jabbar Slams Will Smith over Chris Rock Oscars Slap. https://www.sportskeeda.com/pop-culture/news-he-lot-damage-just-rock-s-face-kareem-abdul-jabbar-slams-will-smith-chris-rock-oscars-slap. Accessed 31 Mar. 2022.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.