Will Smith 'Was Still Mad' About Chris Rock's 2016 Oscars Joke Involving Jada Before Smack: Source

"He made fun of her," a source tells PEOPLE of the moment at the 2016 Oscars that prefaced the heated exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock at Sunday's 94th Academy Awards

Will Smith left viewers around the world stunned after smacking Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards.

A source tells PEOPLE that the heated exchange between the Best Actor winner and Oscars presenter goes back several years, when Rock, 57, took aim at Will's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, during Rock's hosting gig at the 2016 Academy Awards.

"When Chris hosted the Oscars in 2016, Jada was boycotting because of 'Oscars So White.' In his monologue, he made fun of her, saying she can't boycott something she wasn't invited to," the insider explains. "Will was still mad about that."

At the time, Rock made a jab at Jada, 50, in his opening monologue. "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited," he said.

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The debacle at Sunday's awards show unraveled after Rock made light of Jada's hair loss, which she's recently opened up about as a result of her years-long struggle with alopecia. "Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see ya," he joked.

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

Will, 53, then walked onto stage and smacked Rock in the face, leaving the audience and live viewers around the world stunned. "Oh wow," said a seemingly taken-aback Rock as Will made his way back to his seat. "Will Smith just smacked the s— out of me."

"Keep my wife's name out your f—ing mouth!" Smith yelled up to the stage at Rock after taking his seat again.

"Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke," said Rock — to which Smith replied once again, "Keep my wife's name out your f—ing mouth!"

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"I'm going to, okay?" Rock replied, before going on to say, "That was the ... greatest night in the history of television" and presenting the award.

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Kevin Mazur/WireImage

An onlooker at the awards show told PEOPLE that Rock "looked stunned," adding: "Everyone in the mezzanine was standing up to see what was going on — everyone shocked. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was looking at each other like, 'Is this really happening?' "

Will later acknowledged the moment in his acceptance speech after winning Best Actor for his performance as Venus and Serena Williams' father Richard Williams in King Richard, although he omitted Rock from his apology.

"In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world," he said through tears. "I'm being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people."

"I know to do what we do you gotta be able to take abuse; you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile and pretend like that's okay."

He compared himself to his King Richard character, who was a "fierce defender of his family."

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Will then addressed the incident directly, offering an apology to the Academy and his fellow nominees for the incident — but failed to mention Rock. "I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees," he said.

The actor, who was previously nominated for Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, then joked, "Art imitates life: I look like the crazy father. Just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things."

He later added, "Being able to love and care for my mother and my family, my wife ... Thank you for this honor. Thank you for this moment. ... I hope the Academy invites me back."

The 2022 Oscars are airing Sunday from Hollywood's Dolby Theatre on ABC.

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