Serena William’s fiery outburst during the US Open grand final made waves around the world at the weekend as the tennis star fought back at umpire Carlos Ramos for being “sexist” and penalising her throughout the match.
However, now Australian cartoonist Mark Knight has taken the controversy to the next level, dividing the world with his image of the talented player published in the Herald Sun on Monday.
The cartoon, which has been labelled as racist and shameful, mocks the heated exchange between Williams and the umpire, showing the American as a massive, overly exaggerated caricature throwing a child-like tantrum. The garish cartoon is reminiscent of the way African Americans were commonly depicted during the Jim Crow era, when they were often mocked for their features and physiques.
In the background of the cartoon sits Ramos in his umpire’s chair, alongside opponent and eventual champion Naomi Osaka, who is depicted as a white, blonde woman despite being of Japanese/American heritage and having dark, curly hair.
Knight shared the cartoon to his Twitter page on Monday and was quickly flooded with a barrage of criticism with only a minority supporting his attempt at humour.
“Who exactly are these two characters? Neither resembles the two talented and powerful women that played a very tough, competitive match. They have worked almost their entire lives to reach this level. How dare you publish such blatant disrespectful garbage,” one person commented.
“Shameful. Not funny. Racist. White-washing Osaka. Serena/coach behaved against the ruled and her reaction was heated by male players do this too. Nothing excuses racism,” another added.
Even popular Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling got in on the heated debate, calling out Knight’s “racist” and “sexist” depiction.
“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,” she wrote.
Those seeing the cartoon as more of a joke than anything else were few and far between, however, one person did beg the question whether everyone had lost their sense of humour.
“It looks [like] a society is losing the sense of humour. Have anyone seen the pacifier?? Does that ring any bells? That is because she behaved like a baby. The warnings given were correct, even her own coach agreed he gave her instructions. What is the matter with people?” he said.
Following the backlash, the Herald Sun has come out in support of Knight and the controversial cartoon with editor Damon Johnston claiming it had “nothing to do with gender or race” and accurately depicted the situation over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the cartoonist himself said he is “amazed” by the response and that he simply thought Williams’ outburst was “interesting” so decided to create the drawing.
“The world has just gone crazy,” he exclaimed.