Serena Williams: Mark Knight defends ‘racist’ cartoon of tennis champ

Annette Crawford
September 14, 2018

An Australian newspaper accused of racism for a cartoon that mocked tennis star Serena Williams is defending the artist, releasing a Wednesday cover that reads "Welcome to the PC World".

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

"If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very tiresome indeed", the paper said on its front page.

"I'm genuinely embarrassed for you", Julie Stoddart said in a tweet, while Ken McAlpine tweeted: "Poor little newspaper needs a hug". Others highlighted the "whitewashed" depiction of Osaka, who has Haitian and Japanese heritage; in the cartoon she has blonde hair and looks "white".

Serena Williams argues with the chair umpire and match referee in the US Open final.

Knight, who has a reputation for controversial cartoons, was pilloried from far and wide for his portrayal - including by a member of the US Congress and a large portion of the 22,000 people who commented on his Twitter post showing the drawing. An indignant Williams emphatically defended herself, denying she had cheated. A short time later, she smashed her racket in frustration and was docked a point.

The 2018 National Basketball Association rookie of the year tweeted: "To disrespect Serena Williams, a 23 time Grand Slam Champion, in this light is truly disappointing. It's like our opinions don't matter".

Cartoonist Paul Zanetti said he was stunned by the backlash Knight received.


"Regardless of race or sex, they are lampooned due to their behaviour", the editors wrote of the public figures it caricatured.

"This isn't satire - it is disgusting racist caricature", Twitter user Rose Weber wrote on Tuesday.

We asked Australian cartoonists Maddie Hah, Costa A, SBS Sexuality writer and illustrator Sam Leighton-Dore, and Walkley award-winning graphic novelist Safdar Ahmed how they interpreted the match, in light of the political and racial politics of what Williams represents for tennis and broader society. The cartoon references racist visual tropes (the thick lipped "Sambo" or "Coon") in an uncritical way, which is why so many people are justly offended.

The Sun, which is owned by a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Past year a former editor of the Murdoch-owned Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie, quit as a contributor to the tabloid after writing a column comparing a soccer player with part-Nigerian heritage to a gorilla.

Yesterday, the Herald Sun used its entire front cover to try and defend the cartoon, suggesting those who objected to it were PC and are all out to make our lives "very boring indeed". "All he did was depict her in satirical manner", said Zanetti. "I think the only solution to that is for ordinary people to fight and retaliate back much louder, so they can hear us from the back of their stadiums".

Cartoonist Mark Knight's image, published in Melbourne's Herald Sun, showed an angry Williams with exaggerated lips and tongue and a wild plume of curly hair rising from the top of her head as she stomped on her tennis racket.

"A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark's cartoon depicted that", the editor said.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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