"This is the second year in a row where there had been no people of color nominations in the acting category," he told WABC-TV. "That's why we're not there."
"We felt that we just didn't want to be there suggesting that we feel that everything is okay with the way it is," his wife added.
"We would say good luck to all the nominees -- this is hard work. Making films is hard work. Kudos to them," Lewis Lee said.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences responded quickly to the backlash received over the lack of diversity in nominees. Eight days after the nominations were announced in January, the Academy's board voted unanimously to increase the number of women and people of color in its membership by 2020.
Lee, a two-time Oscar nominee, recognized this progress.
"I think Hollywood has noticed. The Academy has noticed. They changed their rules overnight to get more diversity with women and people of color. It can't be ignored," he said.
The 88th Academy Awards were presented on Sunday night with "Spotlight" taking home the most coveted trophy for Best Picture.