Tennis

'The world has just gone crazy': Cartoonist, newspaper defend Serena Williams caricature

Herald Sun backs depiction of tennis star's outburst at U.S. Open after online controversy

September 12, 2018

This Mark Knight cartoon published by the Herald Sun on Monday received widespread criticism for reducing both Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka to "racist" and "sexist" stereotypes. (Mark Knight/Herald Sun/The Associated Press)

An Australian newspaper is defending a cartoon depiction of Serena Williams' U.S. Open outburst after widespread online criticism called the caricature "racist" and "sexist."

"The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race. The world has just gone crazy," said cartoonist Mark Knight.

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Damon Johnston, editor of the Herald Sun, backed the Knight drawing in a tweet saying the "cartoon is not racist or sexist" and that "it rightly mocks poor behaviour by a tennis legend."

The defence comes after many online denounced the cartoon for its exaggerated features of Williams where she is seen stomping on her racket while the chair ump asks her opponent: "Can you just let her win?"

Some also believed the cartoon "whitewashed" U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, who is mixed race, by depicting her as a blond, white woman.

Watch Signa Butler discuss the public outcry to the Williams cartoon:

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Williams was given a 3rd code violation in the 2nd set of the U.S. Open Final, resulting in the loss of a game. Naomi Osaka would go on to with the match in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.  3:47

In response to the controversy, the Herald Sun went a step further and shared an early copy of Wednesday's front page. The headline reads: "Welcome to PC world" and includes the Williams cartoon and a collage of several other Knight caricatures. 

In a social media post, Peter Blunden, managing director of News Corp.'s operations in the state of Victoria, said: "Australia's finest cartoonist Mark Knight has the strongest support of his colleagues for his depiction of Serena Williams' petulance. It's about bad behaviour, certainly not race. The PC brigade are way off the mark ... again."

Watch the controversial decision from the chair empire that led to Williams' outburst:‚Äč

According to the Times, umpires may boycott Williams matches after her behaviour at the U.S. Open toward chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Williams was fined a total of $17,000 US for three code violations during that match for "verbal abuse," being warned for coaching and for breaking her racket.

Knight has since deleted his social media accounts.

With files from The Associated Press
CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices