NEWS
11/09/2018 12:49 AM IST | Updated 11/09/2018 7:24 PM IST

Australian Newspaper's Cartoon Of Serena Williams Condemned As 'Racist And Sexist'

JK Rowling leads backlash against caricature of tennis legend.

Sept 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA;  
Serena Williams of the USA talks to chair umpire after a code violation for coaching while playing Naomi Osaka of Japan in the women’s final on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
USA Today Sports / Reuters
Sept 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Serena Williams of the USA talks to chair umpire after a code violation for coaching while playing Naomi Osaka of Japan in the women’s final on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

An Australian cartoonist’s caricature of Serena Williams following her controversial US Open final has been branded “racist and sexist” amid an angry backlash against the sketch.

Mark Knight of Melbourne’s Herald Sun is standing by his work after coming under fire for how he rendered the tennis legend. 

He dismissed social media criticism of his drawing, which mocks the tennis legend after her loss to Naomi Osaka at Saturday’s final in New York.

In the cartoon, Williams is depicted with an exaggerated face and body, jumping on her smashed racket with a dummy nearby.

In the background, a blonde opponent faces a chair umpire who pleads: “Can you just let her win?”

Osaka - who has dark, curly hair in real life - is the first Japanese player to capture a singles Grand Slam title. 

Caitlin Ochs / Reuters
Naomi Osaka of Japan poses with the championship trophy

Author JK Rowling was one of many to weigh in to the debate on the polarising illustration, calling the cartoon “racist and sexist” on Twitter.

“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,” said the Harry Potter author.

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Twitter
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Knight later tweeted: “Don’t bring gender into it when it’s all about behaviour.” 

To attempt to prove his point, he posted a previous cartoon about male player Nick Kyrgios receiving a ‘pep talk’ after appearing ‘sulky’ during the tournament.

That cartoon shows a male tennis official speaking to Kyrgios, but the official in the next panel, holding Kyrgios by the ear, is a woman.

Critics noted that Knight’s cartoon of Kyrgios actually reinforces the point that men are treated differently than women ― an argument Williams made after she was fined $17,000 for three highly criticised code violations during the US Open final.

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos docked the 23-time Grand Slam champion for receiving coaching during the match. She then broke a racket and berated him, resulting in two more code violations.

Williams, who has long spoken out about facing racism and sexism as a black woman in the public eye, noted that male players who lose their tempers on court have not always been penalised as harshly. Tennis legend Billie Jean King agreed.

There’s a long history of sexism in tennis, including unequal pay for women and scrutiny of their appearance and fashion choices.

Last month, officials at the French Open banned Williams from wearing a bodysuit in future tournaments.

Less than two weeks ago, in an earlier US Open round, French player Alizé Cornet received a code violation for changing her shirt on the court after realising it was backward, even though male players routinely change their shirts.

The United States Tennis Association, which organises the tournament, later apologised to Cornet and clarified its policy to reflect that women can also change their shirts on court.