Should Chris Rock Skip the Oscars? Twitter Weighs In

Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith are calling for a boycott

By Zach Johnson Jan 19, 2016 2:19 PMTags
Chris Rock, OscarsThe Academy

Chris Rock is facing pressure to bow out as host of the 88th Annual Academy Awards over the calls to boycott the 2016 Oscars in response to the lack of diversity among the nominees. With less than six weeks to go before the Feb. 28 show, he's caught between a rock and a hard place.

For the second year in a row, not a single person of color was nominated in the top individual categories: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director. As a result, filmmaker Spike Lee—who received an honorary Oscar from the Academy at its Board of Governors Awards in November—announced in an Instagram post Monday that he and his wife Tonya Lewis Lee "cannot support it" and will not attend the event. Regarding Rock's hosting gig, Lee called out those who questioned whether he should do it. "The host is black (chris rock) and now black actors and others are shaming him for taking the job?" he wrote. "He earned it."

Jada Pinkett Smith announced via Facebook that she will be boycotting the show, too. "Hey, Chris. I will not be at the Academy Awards and I won't be watching but I can't think of a better man to do the job at hand this year than you, my friend," the Gotham actress said. "Good luck." Her husband, Will Smith, led a similar boycott of the Grammy Awards in 1989 when it refused to televise the rap category in which he and DJ Jazzy Jeff won for "Parents Just Don't Understand."

Rock didn't respond to request for comment when contacted by NBC's Today Monday. Last week, however, the comedian did address the controversy, tweeting, "The #Oscars. The White BET Awards." Matt Lauer argued that Rock should stay on as host. "Don't you think it would be better for him to stick it out and do the hosting? Because if he pulls out, it's a big story for one day," he told his co-hosts. "If he decides to host, there's all that anticipation and everything he says on that stage gets played over and over again and he can make a real difference."

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the diversity issue overnight. "I'd like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year's nominees," she said in a statement. "While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it's time for big changes."

"The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership," she added. "In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond. "As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly."

"This isn't unprecedented for the Academy," Isaacs continued. "In the '60s and '70s, it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together."

Rapper 50 Cent took to Instagram Monday to plead with the comedian to back out of the show. "Chris please do not do the oscars awards. You mean a lot man, don't do it," he wrote. "Please."

On the flip side, many non-famous Twitter users hope that Rock will use the diversity issue as fodder for his act on Feb. 28: