Australian cartoonist Mark Knight ignited outrage with his depiction of tennis star Serena Williams at the U.S. Open published in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper on Monday.
Knight’s caricature shows a beefy and fat-lipped Williams jumping up and down on her broken racquet, as the chair umpire tells Naomi Osaka in the background: “Can you just let her win?”.
On Sunday, Osaka claimed her maiden grand slam title in truly extraordinary circumstances at the US Open, as a furious Serena Williams became embroiled in a stunning row with umpire Carlos Ramos.
Six-time US Open winner Williams, was initially disgusted after receiving a coaching violation from the umpire during the first set.
Williams was later handed a point penalty for smashing her racquet in set two and was then docked a game after continuing her protests at Ramos, seemingly calling the official a "thief".
“Racist and sexist tropes”
Several have labelled Knight’s cartoon as “racist and sexist,” with observers drawing attention to the depiction of Williams’ facial features and pose.
Others have pointed out that Osaka was portrayed as petit woman with jet blonde straight hair, while in reality she has dark curly hair with blonde streaks and is taller than Williams.
Among the detractors is Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who claimed that Knight’s depiction of Serena Williams is racist and sexist.
“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,” the author tweeted on Monday.
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
Rapper Nicki Minaj, comedian Kathy Griffin and basketballer Ben Simmons were also critical of the cartoon.
Knight: “It’s all about behavior”
The cartoonist responded to criticism by pointing out that it was only about Williams’ behavior on the court and said those pointing out it was racist and sexist were misinterpreting the whole thing.
"I saw the world number one tennis player have a huge hissy fit and spit the dummy. That's what the cartoon was about, her poor behaviour on the court," he said.
"I'm not targeting Serena. I mean, Serena is a champion.
"I drew her as an African-American woman. She's powerfully built. She wears these outrageous costumes when she plays tennis. She's interesting to draw. I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman.
"So, this whole business that I'm some sort of racist, calling on racial cartoons from the past, it's just made up. It's not there."
Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, which publishes the Melbourne’s Herald Sun, defended Knight.
"Criticism of Mark Knight's Serena Williams cartoon shows the world has gone too PC & misunderstands the role of news media cartoons and satire," he said.