A day after a cartoon in an Australian newspaper has come under fire for being ‘racist’ and ‘repugnant’ towards American tennis player Serena Williams, the newspaper defiantly republished the controversial cartoon on its front-page Wednesday, slapping aside “politically correct” accusations. Williams’ meltdown in the US Open final has gathered storm and is the subject of the cartoon. However, many have slammed it for being distasteful and politically incorrect.
Under the front-page headline “WELCOME TO PC WORLD”, the newspaper wrote Wednesday that “if the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed”. The cover included caricatures of other Australian and foreign political leaders drawn by Mark Knight.
Instead of taking on criticism and apologizing, the Herald Sun appears to have had a public meltdown. Sad to see a whole newspaper have a tantrum. They’re clearly hysterical. pic.twitter.com/jwEakeh0OZ
— Tom Taylor (@TomTaylorMade) 12 September 2018
The cartoon by Knight, published in the Herald Sun tabloid on Tuesday, depicted the tennis star having a tantrum on the court at the US Open final after she lost to Naomi Osaka on Saturday. The depiction of Osaka has also come under fire for making her appear as a “white woman”.
The cartoon has been condemned by American civil rights activist the Rev Jesse Jackson, British author JK Rowling and numerous sports broadcasters, journalists and activists. The depiction of Serena has been compared to the racist illustrations during the US Jim Crow era and Sambo cartoons.
Speaking on ABC, Knight said he had “no knowledge of those cartoons or that period” and he thought the said people were “making stuff up”. “I’m upset that people are offended, but I’m not going to take the cartoon down,” he said. “I can’t undraw the cartoon. I think people have just misinterpreted. Maybe there’s a different understanding of cartooning in Australia to America … It was a cartoon based on her tantrum on the day and that’s all it was,” he went on to add.
Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, said the tabloid’s stance was unfortunate. It was “without consideration for the painful historical context of such imagery and how it can support biases and racism today”, she said. “Why wouldn’t a human being care about that?”
So unfortunate that this is your response; and without consideration for the painful historical context of such imagery and how it can support biases and racism today. Why wouldn’t a human being care about that?
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) 11 September 2018
In response to the condemnation, an article was published by the Herald Sun where Knight claims the cartoon is “not about race”.
“The world has gone crazy,” he said. Knight further added the reaction on social media was “unfair”. “I tried to reply to these people but they just don’t listen,” he said. “On any given day you are a hero and on any given day you are a pariah. And you just have to live with it.”
Editor of the newspaper, Damon Johnston, also defended Knight. “A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that,” Johnston said. “It had nothing to do with gender or race.”
Well Julie here’s a cartoon I drew a few days before when Australian male tennis player Kyrgios at the US Open was behaving badly. Don’t bring gender into it when it’s all about behaviour. I’ll accept your apology in writing😁 pic.twitter.com/NLV0AjPGsY
— Mark Knight (@Knightcartoons) 10 September 2018
Popular British author JK Rowling tweeted, “Well done on reducing one of the greatest sportswomen alive to racist and sexist tropes and turning a second great sportswoman into a faceless prop.”
Well done on reducing one of the greatest sportswomen alive to racist and sexist tropes and turning a second great sportswoman into a faceless prop. https://t.co/YOxVMuTXEC
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) 10 September 2018
The Australian cartoonist of *that* Serena cartoon has form. pic.twitter.com/n7RhMzhADG
— Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻 (@MarkDiStef) 10 September 2018
The saddest part about Mark Knight’s cartoon depiction of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, is that he believes that he has done nothing wrong and that everyone is overreacting and does not understand the art of caricature. Racist bigotry at its finest.
— NUFF (@nuffsaidny) 10 September 2018
National Association of Black Journalists said the cartoon was “repugnant”. “The Sept 10 cartoon not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams’ depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like,” the association said. “The art of editorial cartooning is a visual dialogue on the issues of the day, yet this cartoon grossly inaccurately depicts two women of colour at the US Open, one of the grandest stages of professional sports.”
Serena had a verbal conflict with chair umpire Carlos Ramos during the US Open final where she accused him of being a ‘cheat’ and ‘thief’ for docking her a point after being handed a code violation for coaching – which is not permitted under the rules. She later claimed that such treatment would not have been meeted out to her male counterparts which has resulted in debates of sexism and racism.