Mark Knight, an editorial cartoonist for the Herald Sun in Melbourne, Australia, swiftly dismissed criticism a cartoon that criticizes tennis star, Serena Williams.
Critics of Knight’s drawing said the cartoon mocked Williams in a manner that perpetuated the racist, sexist and ambiguous “angry black woman” stereotype while whitewashing U.S. Open Champion Naomi Osaka.
Osaka is of Haitian and Japanese descent.
In Knight’s illustration, Serena’s physique is drawn unusually massive. The size of her mouth and lips is grossly exaggerated, she appears extremely agitated and she is smashing her tennis racket by repeatedly jumping on it.
There is also a pacifier lying near her feet, seeming to suggest — or reinforce, rather — an idea that Serena was acting childish during her rant against chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
Ramos accused Williams and her coach Patrick Mouratoglou of cheating during the second set of the US Open championship match.
Williams was given a point penalty and a subsequent game penalty due to Serena calling him a “thief” in response to Ramos’ cheating accusations.
Knight tweeted Monday that he wasn’t thinking about gender when he drew the cartoon. He insists he was only highlighting behavior between Williams and Osaka.
Monday, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) swiftly denounced Knight’s cartoon. The NABJ called the cartoon “repugnant on many levels.”
“The Sept. 10 cartoon not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams’ depiction is unnecessarily Sambo-like,” the NABJ said in a statement. “The art of editorial cartooning is a visual dialogue on the issues of the day, yet this cartoon grossly and inaccurately depicts two women of color at the US Open, one of the grandest stages of professional sports.”
Novelist J.K. Rowling was also one of the many who spoke about the inappropriateness of the cartoon.
In response to Knight and his cartoon, she tweeted, “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.”
Despite the level of pushback generated by the cartoon, the Herald Sun reprinted the cartoon on its front page today and suggested that people were only upset because of their insistence on being politically correct.