Australian newspaper accused of racism over Serena Williams cartoon

An Australian newspaper faced accusations of racism and sexism over a cartoon that mocks tennis star Serena Williams. 

The cartoon by Mark Knight from the Herald Sun in Melbourne was published after Williams’s loss in the U.S. Open final this weekend.

It portrays an irate Williams as she stomps on her tennis racket. In the background, the cartoon features a judge asking an opponent, whose identity is not clear, if she can “just let her win.” 

{mosads}The cartoon was a reference to the events that occurred during the matchup between Williams and Naomi Osaka on Saturday.

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos issued a code violation to Williams during play, saying she had received coaching during the match — a point Williams strongly denied. Williams later broke her racket and shouted at Ramos, which led to a penalty point and a game penalty. 

“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,” author J.K. Rowling tweeted in response to the image. 

“About as subtle as Fran Drescher’s voice,” former ESPN anchor and writer Jemele Hille wrote on Twitter. 

The Herald Sun referred The Hill to a statement Knight subsequently made to the newspaper.

“I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the U.S. Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” Knight told The Herald Sun.

“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor [behavior] on the day, not about race. The world has just gone crazy.”

Knight had previously pushed back against the criticism he received, saying that his illustration was intended to portray Williams’s behavior. 

To support his argument, Knight posted a cartoon he drew of tennis player Nick Kyrgios, showing an umpire giving “a sulky Nick Kyrgios a pep talk during the U.S. Open” and next to it a female umpire grabbing Kyrgios by the ear under the caption, “What should have happened.” 

“Don’t bring gender into it when it’s all about behavior,” Knight tweeted.

Williams accused the umpire of sexism for penalizing her on multiple occasions, saying that she’s never seen such action taken against a male tennis player. 

“He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief,'” she said after the match, according to BBC. “But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff.”

— Updated on Sept. 11 at 12:00 p.m.

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