Australian cartoonist criticized over 'racist' Serena Williams sketch

Australian cartoonist criticized over 'racist' Serena Williams sketch

In the Herald Sun, Knight drew a cartoon that showed Williams having an on-court meltdown during the US Open final and the umpire urging her opponent, eventual victor Naomi Osaka, to let the 23-time grand slam victor win.

Knight told the Herald Sun: "The cartoon was just about Serena on the day having a tantrum".

In the cartoon you can see his depiction of Serena stomping on a tennis racket while a pacifier lies on the ground next to her.

Knight, who has a reputation for controversial cartoons, was pilloried from far and wide for his portrayal - including by a member of the US Congress and a large portion of the 22,000 people who commented on his Twitter post showing the drawing.

Knight said he has received death threats over the cartoon and his Twitter account has since been deleted.

In the cartoon, the referee asks Osaka: "Can't you just let her win?".

In the image, Serena had enlarged facial features (nose and lips) and Osaka, of Haitian and Japanese origin, was depicted as a white woman.

Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston extended the defense on Twitter as he denied any racism or sexism.

"I'm genuinely embarrassed for you", Julie Stoddart said in a tweet, while Ken McAlpine tweeted: "Poor little newspaper needs a hug".

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"If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very boring indeed", the tagline adds.

However, the cartoon still drew widespread criticism, most notably online.

Whether it is was intended or not, Knight's cartoon has been widely condemned overseas with many arguing it reinforces a growing global perception that Australia is a country of racists, with one notable exception.

The newspaper defended the cartoonist, Mark Knight, on Tuesday. This is what he does for a living and we've all appreciated what he's done over the years in all different cartoons.

He questioned the imposition by social media critics of no-go areas in cartooning and other critical media. The Williams in Knight's cartoon is ostensibly supposed to be a caricature of her, when in actuality it's a lazy caricature of over-the-top black features. And what that means is you can't criticize minority groups for poor behavior.

'I'm happy to sit back and listen to people who say they feel that they have experienced racism in their lives and they see an element of that in it, ' she said.

Williams is one of a small number of black female tennis players and is the most frequently drug-tested professional woman in the sport.

"The Sept. 10 cartoon not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams' depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like", read the NABJ's statement.

Journalist Winnie Ngozi Okocha said: "I don't want to flatten every black woman's experience to make out that we have one identical story".

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