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11th Sep 2018

‘Nothing to do with gender or race’ – Australian newspaper backs ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ Serena Williams cartoon

JK Rowling and Martin Luther King Jr's daughter have since joined the ranks of criticisers

Kate Demolder

JK Rowling and Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter have since joined the ranks of criticisers

An Australian newspaper has backed a controversial cartoon depicting the recent scene of multiple Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams confronting an umpire at the US Open.

The cartoon, which features Williams mid-tantrum while a faceless Naomi Osaka speaks to umpire Carlos Ramos as he utters the words “Can’t you just let her win?”, was featured in Melbourne-based newspaper the Herald Sun.

Also portrayed in the picture are a child’s dummy and imagery reminiscent of racist depictions of black people in the US during the Jim Crow era.

The piece was created by cartoonist Mark Knight, who has announced that he was “amazed” to see such a response.

“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.

“It’s been picked up by social media in the US and my phone has just melted down. The world has just gone crazy.”

The US-based National Association of Black Journalists has responded to those commending the piece, by saying that the cartoon was “repugnant on many levels.”

“(It) not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams’ depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like,” the group 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 colour at the US Open, one of the grandest stages of professional sports.”

Bernice King, the chief executive of the King Center daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, also added to this – condemning the cartoon on Twitter and asking the Herald Sun to “please do better”.

Confronting multiple accusations that the piece is both racist and sexist from international sources, Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston released a statement claiming that the cartoon has simply been taken up incorrectly.

“A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that.

“It had nothing to do with gender or race.”

Executive chairman of News Corp Australia, Michael Miller, also shared this belief – stating that criticism of Knight’s “shows the world has gone too PC”.