News Corp Australasia’s executive chairman has been forced to defend Melbourne’s Herald Sun after the newspaper ran a cartoon in yesterday’s edition that parodied Serena Williams’ “tantrum” during the US Open women’s singles final and has since drawn global condemnation for being “racist” and “sexist”.
The offending cartoon, by Mark Knight, depicts Williams smashing her racquet and stomping on it during Saturday’s now infamous match. The American was given three code violations during a heated on-court exchange with chair umpire Carlos Ramos and was later fined $US17,000 ($A24,000) by match officials.
Her opponent, Japanese player and winner of the match, Naomi Osaka, is strangely depicted in Knight’s cartoon as blonde, and is seen talking to Ramos who asks: “Can you just let her win?”
None other than author J.K. Rowling led a global chorus of criticism of Knight’s illustration, tweeting: “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.”
However, News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller this morning tweeted in defence of the caricature, saying: “Criticism of Mark Knight’s Serena Williams cartoon shows the world has gone too PC & misunderstands the role of news media cartoons and satire. Poor behaviour in any sport needs to be called out.”
Many others called out the illustration for being unflattering and pointed out the race and gender issues associated with the image.
British journalist Charles Thomson tweeted: “In 100 years’ time, this cartoon will be viewed no differently than old images of Jim Crow, or the newspaper cartoons drawn of Jack Johnson. Mark Knight has just drawn his way into the history books.”
This morning, Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston also defended the cartoon, saying: “A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that. It had nothing to do with gender or race.”
However, many on twitter agreed that the image was derogatory and wouldn’t have been drawn if it were a male player who’d done something similar.
Knight has defended the image saying it had nothing to do with race or gender but was all about bad behaviour. He later tweeted that he’d poked similar fun at male tennis players including, very recently, Australia’s Nik Kyrgios.
In an interview in today’s Herald Sun, the cartoonist said: “I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting.
“It’s been picked up by social media in the US and my phone has just melted down. The world has just gone crazy.
“Three days before I had drawn a cartoon about Nick Kyrgios being led off by the ears, like you used to do with your children.
“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race,” Knight said.
And Knight has even won himself some supporters. This morning broadcaster Neil Mitchell defended the cartoon on his 3AW radio program.
“This shows an awful misunderstanding of Mark Knight and this country,” Mitchell said.
“I looked at that cartoon and it didn’t even cross my mind it was about race. It was a sports bully, a petulant child throwing a tantrum about losing.”
Others, too, tweeted their support of Knight’s work: