New York Daily News: By Kate Feldman – The second biggest moment of Will Smith’s Oscar night came when he won for best actor for his role in “King Richard.”

In a tearful acceptance speech, Smith thanked Venus and Serena Williams for allowing him to tell their father’s story on the tennis courts of Compton, California.

“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. 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. Making this film I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton,” the 53-year-old actor said, naming his on-screen wife and daughters.

Will Smith accepts the award for lead actor for "King Richard" at the Oscars Sunday.

Will Smith accepts the award for lead actor for “King Richard” at the Oscars Sunday – Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

“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 we do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse and you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve gotta be able to have people disrespecting you and you have to smile and pretend like that’s OK. I want to be a vessel for love.”

Smith beat out Javier Bardem for “Being the Ricardos,” Benedict Cumberbatch for “The Power of the Dog,” Andrew Garfield for “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” and Denzel Washington for “The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Smith tearfully thanked Venus and Serena Williams for allowing him into their story.

Smith tearfully thanked Venus and Serena Williams for allowing him into their story – ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

But through the joy, Smith also delivered apologies to the Academy and his fellow nominees, just minutes after he slapped presenter Chris Rock for making fun of wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia, to which Smith responded by telling the comedian to “get my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.”

“Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father,” Smith said, chuckling. “Love will make you do crazy things.”

Through tears, Smith said: “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all of my fellow nominees.”

Rock did not get a public apology.

This marks Smith’s third Oscar nomination, but his first win. He was previously nominated for the boxing biopic “Ali” in 2002 and for “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2006.

Kate Feldman is the senior TV reporter and covers national and breaking news.

Top Feature Photo: At the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California – ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images