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Serena Williams receives support after release of offensive cartoon

by Bridgette Babb - Copy Editor
Tue, Sep 25th 2018 05:00 pm
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

American tennis player Serena Williams is back in the headlines as a derogatory cartoon of her appeared in an Australian newspaper, The Herald Sun.

The cartoon depicted her reaction during the 2018 U.S. Open final, which some believe the depiction of Williams is racist. 

Political cartoons can come in many forms. The artists make it a duty to evoke some kind of reaction from the reader. Mark Knight, an Australian cartoonist has done just that. 

In the cartoon, Williams is shown as a “big baby,” stepping on her tennis racquet and having a fit in the recent Grand Slam match against Naomi Osaka, a Japanese  Hatian tennis player. 

Also depicted in the cartoon, the umpire is seen telling her opponent Osaka, “Can you just let her win?” 

This cartoon portrays the arguments Williams went through with gold badge umpire, Carlos Ramos and his cheating accusations, playing into the “angry black woman” stereotype.

Knight’s cartoon ignited a national uproar as people from all walks of life stood up for the 36-year-old tennis player. 

The comments focused more on how he depicted Williams, rather than the content itself. With oversized lips, broad nose and muscular body, Knight’s cartoon style replicated the old Jim Crow era and how people of color were shown during that time. Williams looked like a brute. 

Celebrities, women in particular, stood up for Williams and spoke on how this cartoon was not only an insult to people of color, but also to female athletes who have been discriminated against. 

“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,” author, J.K. Rowling, tweeted.

Kathy Griffin colorfuly tweeted, “Hey @Knightcartoons just change your name to KKK Cartoons … Racist piece of s—t!”

Even other journalists and cartoonists have criticized Knights' work. 

 “In 100 years’ time, this cartoon will be viewed no differently than old images of Jim Crow, or the newspaper cartoons drawn of Jack Johnson. Mark Knight has just drawn his way into the history books,” tweeted British journalist Charles Thomson.

It appeared Williams and the family would not comment, but her husband and Reddit founder, Alexis Ohanian, described the cartoon as “blatantly racist and misogynistic.” 

He also aimed his anger at Editor of The Herald Sun, Damon Johnson. The Herald Sun, along with Knight, have been defending the cartoon.

Knight stated the cartoon was never about race or gender, but a sport superstar’s bad sportsmanship. 

“I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the  number one tennis player have a huge hissy fit and spit the dummy," Knight said.” 

The Herald Sun issue following showed various political cartoons that could be seen as controversial, with the Knight’s included.

“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 subhead read.

Knight has not issued an apology to the tennis champion, and insisted his intent was not to degrade her. 

Radio host Julie DiCaro, questioned why he hadn’t drawn a picture of a male player having a bad attitude in a match. 

“Well Julie here’s a cartoon I drew a few days before when Australian male tennis player Kyrgios at the U.S. Open was behaving badly,” Knight responded, and showed the cartoon of Nick Kyrgios. 

“Don’t bring gender into it when it’s all about behaviour,” Knight aggressively added. “I’ll accept your apology in writing.”

His Twitter account has been deleted since the backlash. Supporters of Williams continue to spew comments against him.

This is not the first time Knight has been called out for racist cartoons. Earlier in the month a cartoon about train-station safety in the Australian state of Victoria, turned wrong. 

The way he drew faceless black figures fighting in the background caused people to question what his motives really were.

Backlash against the image included disgust from Melbourne politician, Rohan Leppert, who said: “The racist vilification of Melburnians from The Herald Sun continues apace. Utterly shameful.”

Personally, the content did not bother me as much as the drawing and response Knight gave did. 

While some people may have thought Williams was having a temper tantrum, the constant violations Ramos issued were uncalled for. 

People are entitled to react to things they dont agree with in any way they want, and she chose to take the gold badge-head on. 

Just the fact that Knight thought it was okay to use that kind of drawing, knowing what it might mean for the African-American community is absolutely disgusting.