After Serena Williams, arguably one of the best tennis players of all time, was penalized by chair umpire Carlos Ramos for code violations in the U.S. Open 2018 women’s final against Japan’s Naomi Osaka, she claimed the calls against her had a lot more to do with “sexism” than her behavior in the court.
Williams (and many others) alleged men have acted much more aggressively than her — who smashed her racquet in frustration — and gotten away with it.
As Osaka became the first Japanese-born woman to win a grand slam, the match would be remembered for Williams’ controversial confrontation with Ramos and the allegations that followed.
The on-court argument became a world-wide trend on social media sites and an Australian cartoonist also decided to weigh in on the event.
However, his cartoon was so blatantly racist, it followed immense backlash.
Mark Knight, the editorial cartoonist for the Herald Sun in Melbourne, depicted Williams stomping on her racquet with a pacifier lying close by. The caricature is so far off how Williams actually looks like that if one removes the tennis court from the equation, it would be hard to tell who the cartoon depicted. The cartoon showed a typical racist “angry Black woman” trope and people were not happy.
However, an angry, almost unrecognizable “Williams” wasn’t the only problem with the cartoon.
In the background, it showed the chair umpire, talking to what must have been Osaka but looked nothing like her; rather it looked like a white woman with straight blonde hair — Osaka is a Japanese-Haitian.
The chair is asking Osaka, “Can you just let her win?”
The cartoonist was panned for “racist and sexist tropes” by Twitter users, including the likes of J.K. Rowling.
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
Well, I'm thinking now that Australian people see Japanese African people as white blonde. I'm concerned.— ??? (@KisakiJRO) September 10, 2018
That is positively disgusting. It's not funny. Why do you think it's OK to do that? Serena Williams was standing up for herself. Does seeing a strong woman intimidate you?— Tori Davis (@ToriDavis825) September 11, 2018
This cartoon and the kyrgos cartoon are so unbelievably racist they look like they're from the 1920's you should be ashamed....right down to the thin blond behaving politely with the ref in the background boooo— joshua Kaplan (@jkaplan80) September 10, 2018
This is precisely why Serena hasn’t spoken up about mistreatment in the past. Whenever a black woman speaks out about being treated unfairly, the world sees her as a problem. She is a class act & this is a childish piece of garbage. Time to hire a new cartoonist, Herald Sun.— Don’t forget to go when you leave.? (@caress_monet) September 11, 2018
You manage to be racist on several different levels here, not only in how you depict Serena, but also in erasing Naomi into a skinny blonde. Impressively shitty work.— Ian Rose (@ianrosewrites) September 10, 2018
How does Mark Knight still have a job? And who approved the cartoon? His racist depiction of @serenawilliams is sickening. A sober reminder how far we still have to go.— Chiraag Bains (@chiraagbains) September 10, 2018
But the cartoonist does not seem close to backing down or offering an apology.
“When I watched the U.S. Open, I was sitting there like everybody else, and I saw the world No. 1 tennis player have a huge hissy fit and spit the dummy,” Knight said, speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “That’s what the cartoon is about, her poor behavior on the court. Nothing to do with gender or racism at all.”
Of the criticism of his cartoon, he claimed people were “making stuff up” to bash his work.
In a previous attempt to prove his cartoon was not “sexist” or “racist,” he posted another one of his work which featured male player Nick Kyrgios, receiving a pep talk after appearing “sulky.”
If Knight was trying to use the cartoon to prove that his work isn’t racist or sexist, this cartoon surely was not an apt choice.
In the Kyrgios cartoon it also showed that women are treated differently than men on court. It showed that while a male official gave the player a “pep talk,” while a female official dragged him on to court by his ear.
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
Amid the controversy, Herald Sun stood firmly behind their cartoonist, releasing a statement in Knight’s support.
“A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that,” editor Damon Johnston said. “It had nothing to do with gender or race.”
The National Association of Black Journalists offered a seething rebuke of the cartoon and Williams’ depiction in it.
“The Sept. 10 cartoon not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams’ depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like,” it said in a statement. “The art of editorial cartooning is a visual dialogue on the issues of the day, yet this cartoon grossly inaccurately depicts two women of color at the US Open, one of the grandest stages of professional sports.”
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