Spike Lee Honored at Academy Awards – Despite His Skipping the Ceremony
02/28/2016 AT 11:00 PM EST
Lee received an honorary Oscar last fall for his directorial achievements, including 1989's Oscar-nominated Do the Right Thing and his 1997 documentary 4 Little Girls.
While Lee previously said he'd be taking in a New York Knicks basketball game on Sunday night, the awards ceremony honored him with a tribute showing footage from his films.
"I don't say I found film. Film found me," Lee said in a clip of him accepting the award at an earlier ceremony, where he was presented with the award by Samuel L. Jackson and Denzel Washington.
After the Oscars' lack of acting nominations for people of color sparked controversy, the acclaimed director took to Instagram and posted a photo of a young Martin Luther King, Jr. Lee wrote that he wanted to be respectful of friends involved in the evening, including host Chris Rock, producer Reggie Hudlin and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
"But, how is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white?" he wrote. "And let's not even get into the other branches. 40 white actors in 2 years and no flava at all. We can't act?! WTF!!"
Check out PEOPLE's full Academy Awards 2016 coverage and complete winners list!
Lee accepted the honorary award in November, two months before nominations were announced, and during his acceptance speech criticized the lack of diversity at the Academy Awards.
"It's been a long time coming," he told the crowd at the Academy's annual Governors Awards. "So I want to thank Cheryl Boone Isaacs for trying to bring some flavor up here. We need some flavor up in here!"
He went on to praise his friend Isaacs for the work she is doing to make the Oscars more representative of the country's makeup.
"I want to commend Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs because she is trying to do something that needs to be done," he said. "Not sure if you know this, but the U.S. Census Bureau says that by the year 2043, white Americans are going to be the minority in this country. People in positions of hiring, you better get smart. Your workforce should reflect what this country looks like."