An Australian cartoonist has broken his silence over a controversial depiction of Serena Williams that has sparked outrage around the world.
Mark Knight of Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper posted his illustration on Twitter on Monday morning, immediately sparking a firestorm of criticism.
The cartoon depicts Serena’s confrontation with umpire Carlos Ramos during the US Open final, showing the tennis superstar destroying her racquet with a child’s dummy lying on the ground next to her.
Many labelled the cartoon “racist” and “sexist”, accusing Knight of using
But Knight says it had nothing to do with race or gender.
“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 told the Herald Sun on Tuesday.
“It’s been picked up by social media in the US and my phone has just melted down.
“The world has just gone crazy.”
Knight said his cartoon was simply about Serena’s poor behaviour.
“Three days before I had drawn a cartoon about Nick Kyrgios being led off by the ears, like you used to do with your children,” he said.
“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about 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) September 10, 2018
‘Making stuff up’
Knight also appeared on ABC News Mornings on Tuesday to defend the way he’d depicted Serena.
racist, calling on racial cartoons from the past, it’s just made up. It’s not there.”
Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston also defended the cartoon.
“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.”
‘Repugnant on many levels’
The National Association of Black Journalists has 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.”
Harry Potter author J.K Rowling was among a number of high-profile figures to slam the cartoon, with many also seeing problems with the way Osaka was depicted.
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) September 10, 2018
You couldn’t be more racist if you tried – and you reeeeeaaally tried. Using those classic sambo tropes- enlarged lips, overexaggerated body parts to depict Serena as hyper masculine- next time just use an old ad from the 1800s- no one would notice the difference in your racism
— Skipperdee (@Skipperdee2015) September 10, 2018
Whatever you think of the Serena Williams situation, I think we can all agree that this cartoon is disgusting. Erasing Naomi Osaka’s blackness alongside a grossly racialised caricature of Serena, invoking racist stereotypes, is obscene. https://t.co/Z09T7rt5tt
— Anna Kessel (@Anna_Kessel) September 10, 2018
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. https://t.co/QWwduSkJbk
— Charles Thomson (@CEThomson) September 10, 2018
But there are also many in the camp who believe the cartoon isn’t racist, including 3AW broadcaster Neil Mitchell.
“This shows an awful misunderstanding of Mark Knight and this country,” he said.
“I looked at that cartoon and it didn’t even cross my mind it was about race.
“It was a sports bully, a petulant child throwing a tantrum about losing.”
The cartoon was produced in response to Williams’ meltdown in the US Open final against Japan’s Naomi Osaka.
Williams was fined $24,000 by the US Tennis Association in the wake of her outburst.