Cartoonist slammed for 'racist' Serena Williams cartoon hits back at 'rolling thunder' of public backlash

Australian cartoonist Mark Knight has defended his depiction of Serena Williams after some compared it with historical racist imagery of African American people.

Mr Knight's cartoon was published in the Herald Sun yesterday, showing her throwing a tantrum, including a spat out dummy on the ground next to a destroyed racket.

Cartoonist Mark Knight's depiction of Serena Williams' US Open meltdown
Cartoonist Mark Knight's depiction of Serena Williams' US Open meltdown Source: Herald Sun

This was in relation to Williams unleashing a furious outburst towards match officials on Sunday during her loss to Naomi Osaka, delaying play for several minutes, culminating in her calling chair umpire Carlos Ramos "a thief".

Some online said they considered Mr Knight's depiction of Williams to be racist, drawing parallels between it and antique depictions of black people in the 'Jim Crow' era.

Author J.K. Rowling was among those critical of the piece, saying Mr Knight had reduced Ms Williams to a "racist and sexist trope".

Mr Knight today responded to the widespread criticism, saying he had simply drawn Ms Williams as he saw her.

"I drew her as an African-American woman ... She's powerfully built, she wears these outrageous costumes when she plays tennis - she's interesting to draw," Mr Knight said.

"I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman.

"I saw the world number one tennis player have a huge hissy fit and spit the dummy.

"That's what the cartoon was about, her poor behaviour on the court."

Mr Knight said he had "absolutely no knowledge" of 'Jim Crow' era artwork, and said social media had fuelled the outrage.

"I find on social media that stuff gets shared around, and it's like a sort of rolling thunder ... it's like a hurricane - it develops intensity way beyond its initial meaning," he said.

"I think racial tensions in America are, of course, more heightened than here in Australia - and Americans may look at it in a different light.

"No racial historical significance should be read into it."


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