‘Jim Crow memorabilia’: Australian cartoonist attacked for 'racist' Serena Williams caricature
Australian cartoonist Mark Knight has been attacked as being a “racist” for depicting Serena Williams, currently at the center of a storm over her on-court antics at the US Open, as a baby jumping on her racket.
Williams was fined $17,000 for violations that included calling the umpire a "liar" and "thief" during her final loss to Naomi Osaka at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, for which she was docked a game for verbal abuse and had a point penalty for racket smashing and a code violation for coaching.
Contributing to the Herald Sun, a morning newspaper covering news in Melbourne and Victoria, Knight portrayed Williams as having spat out her dummy and jumping onto her downed racket while umpire Carlos Ramos asks opponent Naomi Osaka "Can you just let her win?" in the background. Knight has been attacked as a "racist" by some Twiter users for his depiction of Williams.
Where was this cartoon for all the men who have broken their rackets over the years?— Julie DiCaro (@JulieDiCaro) September 10, 2018
“Caricature” - no, it resembles some really gross cartoons that I thought had stopped being produced decades ago, however. And if it really were a caricature, everyone would be stylised the same and it wouldn’t be whitewashed. This is racist & sexist af.— 👩🏼🎓 (@captaincabinet0) September 10, 2018
Same stuff. Different day. pic.twitter.com/alEH8qav1v— Hannah Drake (@HannahDrake628) September 10, 2018
I’m very glad you clarified that your main motivation isn’t misogyny but racism.— ☂️ Straftaten Gut ☂️ (@fireantprincess) September 10, 2018
Hmm.Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Williams' behaviour, I really don't like that cartoon at all.Why is Naomi Osaka suddenly transformed into a white, blonde player?Why is Carlos Ramos white too?And why are Serena Williams' facial features distorted like that?— James Elder (@jamesofputney) September 10, 2018
Some went as far as to brand the cartoon suitable for "Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia", calling for Knight's resignation and even attacking the outlet itself for harboring alleged racist tendencies for allowing the publication of the toon.
Hey Mark bruv you should totally submit your latest masterpiece to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in the USA. I think it would be very well received!— Steve Hewlett (@StevieHewla) September 10, 2018
Give Mark a break. He works for the Herald Sun. Racism and bigotry is required in the employment agreement!— Surprised Owl (@SurprisedOwl) September 10, 2018
Did you mean for this to come off as racist as it does? Because it was a punch to the gut. Felt like I was looking at an archived cartoon from the 1930s. Wow.... just, yeah.... wow. Whatever point you were trying to make, you revealed a WHOLE LOT more about you, than Serena— Pam Keith (@PamKeithFL) September 10, 2018
Others tried to pick holes in the authenticity of the cartoon, such as Williams never having actually jumped into the air and onto her racket during her tirade. Osaka's decpition as having blonde hair despite her Haitian and Japanese heritage was also called out, although the player does sport blonde highlights in her natural dark curls.
The Haitian-Japanese player is blonde? Cool story bro.— Rob AF. (@RobForbesDJ) September 10, 2018
I’m sorry I don’t EVER remember her jumping in the air, throwing her racket..I actually don’t remember her showing bad behavior AT ALL so please explain to me who’s behavior you’re illustrating?? Cause this ain’t it...You can express your apologies via video.— 10/03🦉🎈 (@muvaniyaa) September 10, 2018
Knight however remained steadfast and defended the drawing by pointing to his recent lampooning of Australian player Nick Kyrgios' on-court US Open tantrum as proof his work touched on all aspects of bad behavior, regardless of gender.
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
Answering a comment from Julie Di Caro, Knight wrote: "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," signed off with a smiling face emoji. His sentiments were backed by some, who thought the cartoon was nothing to do with gender or race.
How in gods name can you say they turned her into a white girl with blonde hair. Naomi has blonde tips so that’s blonde hair. Also she’s a background image with little detail. Why do we need to bring race into everything lol— Victor Holley (@victorjholley) September 10, 2018
Williams was met with a backlash from fans and sections of the media, however her allegations of sexism were supported by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), who claimed the matter "brought to the forefront the question of whether different standards are applied to men and women in the officiating of matches."