Did Chris Rock Wear a Protective Cheek Pad Before Will Smith Hit?

Will Smith slammed Chris Rock onstage at the 2022 Oscars show after the comedian told a bald joke directed at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, but some social media users were quick to speculate that the incident was staged. On March 28, an edited image of Rock wearing a protective cheek pad in the moments before the blow was circulated online in support of this “staged” theory.

As Gizmodo first noted, this isn’t an actual photo of Rock wearing a protective pad on his cheek, but an edited one.

The image was created by modifying a photo taken by Brian Snyder of Reuters. In the original photo, seen here, Rock isn’t wearing a pad on his cheek. Here’s a close-up comparison of the two images. While the edits are subtle, you can see the outline of the cheek pad added to Rock’s face in the fake image.

Reuters was not the only news agency to take pictures of the moment. We checked out The Associated Press and Getty Images galleries for additional photos from the moment. Those agencies didn’t photograph Rock with a cheek pad, either.

Smith really touched Rock at the Oscars, and it wasn’t part of a staged play. Smith has since even posted a public apology to Rock, and the Academy has also released a statement condemning the incident.

The fake cheek pad image above isn’t the first bit of misinformation circulating in the wake of this altercation. Online rumors also claimed that Rock Smith had apologized (not so far) and that Smith once told an alopecia joke himself while performing on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in the 1990s (this one is kinda true, but there’s a bit more to the story).


McGurty, Frank and Daniel Trotta. “Will Smith hits Chris Rock onstage and then wins an Oscar.” Reuters, March 29, 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/will-smith-smacks-chris-rock-stage-then-wins-an-oscar-2022 – 03-28/.

“No, Chris Rock wasn’t wearing a pillow when Will Smith punched him.” Gizmodo, https://gizmodo.com/no-chris-rock-wasnt-wearing-a-pad-on-his-cheek-when-wi-1848718079. Accessed March 30, 2022.

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