An Australian newspaper defended its cartoonist Tuesday after publishing a cartoon of Serena Williams throwing a tantrum at the U.S. Open, which civil rights leaders, celebrities and supporters described as racist.
The image of cartoonist Mark Knight, published in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, showed an angry Williams with an exaggeratedly largemouth and wild curly hair as she tramples on her tennis racket.
“This despicable cartoon tried to underestimate the greatness and grace of @serenawilliams and failed. Racism in any form is unacceptable,” civil rights activist Jesse Jackson tweet Monday
The cartoon sought to satirize the angry exchanges of the tennis star with chair judge Carlos Ramos in the women’s final of the U.S. Open on Saturday in New York.
Williams argued with Ramos over two sanctions and finally lost to Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old player born in Japan.
“This is not a satire, it’s a despicable racist cartoon,” Rose Weber wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
The newspaper, owned by a subsidiary of News Corp, posted a defense of its cartoonist on the front page of its website, quoting Knight as saying that “the cartoon about Serena is about her poor behavior that day, not about race.
Williams was fined $17,000 for three violations of the code of conduct during a controversial match for breaking her racket and verbal abuse of the judge. The tennis player did not trample her racket as shown in the cartoon.
The National Association of Black Journalists said the cartoon was “disgusting on many levels.
“The Sept. 10 drawing not only oozes racist, sexist cartoons of both women but also depicts Williams as a ‘sambo,'” the association said in a statement.
“Sambo,” a derogatory term for a black person, is the name of a folk figure usually depicted with an exaggerated mouth and a posture similar to that of an ape.
Some Twitter users, however, said the image was not racist. Lynne Adams tweet on Tuesday that “Serena Williams is a large-build black woman who had a complete breakdown.
After the match, Twitter users and tennis commentators alike said that the infractions imposed on Williams were too harsh and some indicated that they reflected sexism and racism in the refereeing.
Williams said that male players were subject to lower standards for their conduct on the courts.
“I’m here fighting for women’s rights and equality,” the tennis player said at a press conference at the end of the game.