Actor Harry Lennix Calls on Will Smith to 'Come to Grips' and Return His Oscar After Chris Rock Slap

Harry Lennix, known for movies like Justice League and Ray, said "the only person who can redeem the integrity of the Oscars is [Will] Smith himself" by returning his Best Actor trophy

Harry Lennix is encouraging Will Smith to voluntarily return his Best Actor Oscar statuette to make amends for his behavior at this year's ceremony, when he hit Chris Rock onstage.

Lennix, 57, an actor known his roles in movies like Ray and Justice League, wrote in an op-ed for Variety that Smith, 53, "needs to come to grips with the gravity of the offense he committed" and "express-mail his golden trophy back to the Academy and publicly state something to the effect of: 'Out of respect for the 94 years of honor conferred upon this award, I do not in good conscience feel worthy of being its custodian.' "

"At this point, the only person who can redeem the integrity of the Oscars is Smith himself," Lennix wrote, adding, "Smith's brutality stripped the entire evening of its prestige."

"The stain on the Motion Picture Academy cannot be easily remediated. The only hope for a justifiable grace must involve Smith voluntarily returning his award for best actor," The Blacklist star added.

For more on Will Smith, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

Smith, who won for his performance in King Richard, has publicly apologized for his "unacceptable and inexcusable" behavior. He also resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Academy's board of governors voted to ban him from attending the Oscars ceremony — in person and virtually — for the next 10 years. Smith said in response: "I accept and respect the Academy's decision."

Lennix wrote that he feels the decade-long ban is "little more than an extended time out for a playground bully; it's a toothless penalty that lays bare the shallowness of Hollywood morals."

Harry Lennix, Will Smith
Bruce Glikas/WireImage; Frazer Harrison/Getty

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a letter Friday about the 10-year ban: "The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage."

"During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented," they added.

"We want to express our deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast," they said.

will smith
Chris Rock and Will Smith at the Oscars on March 27, 2022. Robyn Beck/getty

"This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith's behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy," they added. "We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted."

In a statement announcing his resignation, Smith said, "My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy."

He added, "I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film."

"So, I am resigning from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and will accept any further consequences the Board deems appropriate. Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason."

Related Articles