‘Repugnant, racist’: News Corp cartoon on Serena Williams condemned

News Corp has come under global condemnation for publishing a racist, sexist cartoon depicting Serena Williams in its Melbourne paper.

The cartoon by Mark Knight, published in Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun tabloid on Tuesday, depicted the tennis star having a tantrum on the court at the US Open after she lost to Naomi Osaka on Saturday. The depiction of Osaka has also been criticised as making her appear as a “white woman”.

The way Knight drew Williams has been compared to the racist illustrations ubiquitous during the US Jim Crow era and Sambo cartoons.

Condemnation of the cartoon has come from American civil rights activist the Rev Jesse Jackson, British author JK Rowling and numerous sports broadcasters, journalists and activists.

Speaking on ABC, Knight said he had “no knowledge of those cartoons or that period” and he thought the said people were “making stuff up”.

“I’m upset that people are offended, but I’m not going to take the cartoon down,” he said.

“I can’t undraw the cartoon. I think people have just misinterpreted. Maybe there’s a different understanding of cartooning in Australia to America … It was a cartoon based on her tantrum on the day and that’s all it was.”

The National Association of Black Journalists said the cartoon was “repugnant” on many levels.

“The Sept 10 cartoon not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams’ depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like,” the association said.

“The art of editorial cartooning is a visual dialogue on the issues of the day, yet this cartoon grossly inaccurately depicts two women of colour at the US Open, one of the grandest stages of professional sports.”

Bernice King, the chief executive of the King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, said the Herald Sun’s stance was “unfortunate”.

It was “without consideration for the painful historical context of such imagery and how it can support biases and racism today”, she said. “Why wouldn’t a human being care about that?”

Be A King (@BerniceKing)

So unfortunate that this is your response; and without consideration for the painful historical context of such imagery and how it can support biases and racism today. Why wouldn’t a human being care about that?

September 11, 2018

The Washington Post noted Knight drew Williams with facial features that reflected caricatures common in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Knight’s cartoon conjures up a range of such caricatures that were branded on memorabilia and popularized on stage and screen of the era, including the minstrel-show character Topsy born out of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, as well as the title character in 1899’s ‘Little Black Sambo’,” the article said.

In an article published by the Herald Sun, Knight said he was “amazed” at the reaction, and said his cartoon was “not about race”.

“The world has gone crazy,” he said. Knight said reaction on social media was “unfair”.

“I tried to reply to these people but they just don’t listen,” he said. “On any given day you are a hero and on any given day you are a pariah. And you just have to live with it.”

Knight had publicly replied to one person on Twitter – US sportswriter Julie DiCaro – seeking an apology for her suggestion it was sexist.

Mark Knight (@Knightcartoons)

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

September 10, 2018

The executive chairman of News Corp Australia, Michael Miller, said criticism of Knight “shows the world has gone too PC”.

Michael Miller (@mm_newscorpaus)

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. #media#cartoons#markknight@Knightcartoons@theheraldsunhttps://t.co/KQFuvIJp0Qpic.twitter.com/sRo3AQ1cJW

September 10, 2018

Editor of the Herald Sun, Damon Johnston, also defended Knight.

“A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that,” Johnston said. “It had nothing to do with gender or race.”

The Herald Sun article ended with a series of other recent Knight cartoons, but did not include one from last month about Sudanese-Australian violence in Melbourne, which also sparked accusations of racism.

Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith)

This is Jim Crow-racist. He Sambo’d Serena Williams. I’m a bit surprised that @Knightcartoons didn’t include a watermelon. For those unfamiliar with the history invoked here, read about the coon caricature. https://t.co/ffmrk76MRM

September 10, 2018

Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson)

https://t.co/LgBOr5vgkA: #SerenaWilliams shown as angry baby, #NaomiOsaka as a blonde White Woman, in controversial #USOpen cartoon from Australian newspaper & cartoonist, #HeraldSun & #MarkKnight:

.@RevJJackson@SantitaJ@Knightcartoons@theheraldsun
https://t.co/7l7gKuwtWk

September 10, 2018

J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling)

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. https://t.co/YOxVMuTXEC

September 10, 2018

NUFF (@nuffsaidny)

The saddest part about Mark Knight’s cartoon depiction of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, is that he believes that he has done nothing wrong and that everyone is overreacting and does not understand the art of caricature. Racist bigotry at its finest.

September 10, 2018

Jeanette 📺📻🎙🦊 (@JNETTEKWAKYE)

No matter what you think about this situation. THIS ‘cartoon’ is disgusting on so many levels. https://t.co/ks2cZDncGS

September 10, 2018

deray (@deray)

The racist cartoon re: Serena at the #USOpen is a reminder that there remains a strong appetiteand acceptance for anti-blackness in the media and in segments of society. How did that even get published?

September 10, 2018

Steven W. Thrasher (@thrasherxy)

As we all head to work this week, I feel very sad for the individual and collective consciousness of Black women, which has been & will be stressed hard. https://t.co/4oBhVZS2gu

September 10, 2018

Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻 (@MarkDiStef)

The Australian cartoonist of *that* Serena cartoon has form. pic.twitter.com/n7RhMzhADG

September 10, 2018

Ron Perlman (@perlmutations)

Don’t know much about the Herald Sun. DO know this Mark Knight muthafucka shouldn’t be employed anywhere on this planet. https://t.co/46g7dh797h

September 10, 2018

Yassmin Abdel-Magied (@yassmin_a)

That Mark thinks depictions along these lines are all in good humour gives an indication of where much of the mainstream media in Australia is at when it comes to issues of race. https://t.co/jXmDXpcXGX

September 10, 2018

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