Herald Sun savaged again for latest Serena controversy

Australian newspaper Herald Sun has come under fire yet again after it defiantly republished a controversial cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams on its front-page, slapping aside “politically correct” accusations that the drawing was racist and sexist.

Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight’s caricature of Williams throwing a tantrum at the US Open, was originally printed on Monday, attracting widespread condemnation from across the world.

Under the front-page headline “WELCOME TO PC WORLD”, the newspaper wrote on 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 Knight.

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The Herald Sun doubled down on their stance after originally publishing a cartoon of Serena Williams. Pic: Herald Sun/Getty

If the Herald Sun were looking to get their name up in lights again, they certainly succeeded with a whole new wave of criticism heading their way after their front page editorial.

Herald Sun savaged all over again

The response came thick and fast, like much of the reaction to the Serena Williams meltdown and its ensuing commentary.

After Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston tweeted out the controversial front page, many responded on Twitter about how the paper had missed the mark.

Meanwhile, Australian writer Maxine Beneba Clarke, who is of Afro-Caribbean descent, said the front page demonstrated a “misunderstanding”.

“I think it’s really interesting that the Herald Sun has not included really any other caricatures or cartoons of black people — either Aboriginal people or African-American people, black people of any descent,” Ms Clarke told ABC.

“So what you have is essentially a front page that has pictures like Donald Trump being caricatured for his hair, Tony Abbott being caricatured for his big ears, you know the Prime Minister being portrayed as a muppet, kind of this innuendo that he’s having his strings pulled … and I think it’s fundamentally different to racial caricature.

“We don’t have a history of people being persecuted because they have orange skin and strange yellow hair, or being persecuted because they have large ears.

“What it’s trying to say is that all people are caricatured, but the criticism of the Serena Williams caricature is that it’s specifically racist, and there’s a reason why the Herald Sun isn’t able to put other cartoons that they’ve reproduced of black people on the front page.

“I’m not really opposed to satire through caricature but it was just a bad cartoon, so I think really there’s a misunderstanding of the criticism.”

Clarke also had a go at explaining the thought process behind the Herald Sun’s doubling down, suggesting the paper was trying to capitalise on global attention.

“This is actually going to sell newspapers for days or weeks and I think that’s essentially what the front page reflects, it’s not necessarily about whether this is ‘PC’ or whether this is racist,” she said.

‘Repugnant on many levels’

However the National Association of Black Journalists condemned the cartoon for it’s ‘unnecessarily sambo-like’ depiction – a racist term for an African American.

“The racist cartoon of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka by Mark Knight of the Herald Sun is repugnant on many levels,” the NABJ said.

“The Sept. 10 cartoon not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams’ depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like.

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.”

Mark Knight spoke to 7News on Tuesday. Image: 7News

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The veteran cartoonist added on Wednesday that he had suspended his Twitter account to protect his family and friends.

Prior to disabling his account, his tweet of the cartoon had attracted more than 22,000 comments, most of them critical.

Knight labelled the outcry against his cartoon as a sign that the “world has just gone crazy”.

“I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” he said in quotes published on the News Corp Australia paper’s website Wednesday.

“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race.”

The caricature has also sparked renewed debate in Australia about racist and sexist discourse in the highly multicultural nation.

Serena, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, smashed her racquet and called the umpire a “thief” and a “liar” while she was losing Saturday’s final to Haitian-Japanese Naomi Osaka.

She was she given three code violations by Carlos Ramos, which cost her a point penalty and then a game penalty.

That sparked a debate about whether she was treated more harshly than male tennis stars like John McEnroe, who was famous for his angry outbursts.

Knight’s caricature showed a butch and fat-lipped Williams jumping up and down on her broken racquet, having spat out a dummy.

Osaka was portrayed as petite and feminine with jet blonde straight hair — in real life she has dark curly hair with blonde streaks and is taller than Williams.

Knight’s detractors included author JK Rowling, who said: “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.”

With AFP