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Australian newspaper somehow doubles down on controversial Serena Williams cartoon

14 September 2018

One of Australia's biggest newspapers has defended its "racist and sexist" cartoon of Serena Williams by publishing the artist's work on its front page.

The Aussie cartoonist at the centre of an worldwide firestorm over a "racist" depiction of Serena Williams says his wife and daughter have been targeted with death threats.

Melbourne-based tabloid The Herald Sun published a drawing by editorial cartoonist depicting Williams throwing a fit on the court and destroying her racquet after the 23-time grand slam champion lost in the final match of the us open to Naomi Osaka.

Her opponent, Japanese and Haitian player Naomi Osaka, was shown as a blonde woman.

Despite the outrage, the paper reprinted the cartoon alongside unflattering caricatures of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attempting to portray the controversy as an effort to curtail free speech.

Knight, who has a reputation for controversial cartoons, was pilloried from far and wide for his portrayal - including by a member of the US Congress and a large portion of the 22,000 people who commented on his Twitter post showing the drawing.

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

Williams was fined $17,000.

It boils down to the fact that the cartoon "plays on historically racist ways of drawing black people", says actress and activist Kelechi Okafor.

Mark Knight's interpretation of Serena Williams.

"But to focus on that, I think, is missing the point".

As noted by the Herald Sun, fellow cartoonist Michael Leunig said Knight's cartoon was not offensive, but truthful.

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The cartoon lampoons Williams's heated dispute with umpire Carlos Ramos during her loss in last week's U.S. Open women's final match to rising star Naomi Osaka.

"The Sept. 10 cartoon not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams' depiction is unnecessarily Sambo-like", the NABJ Sports Task Force wrote in a statement Monday.

Knight told the newspaper that his cartoon was a reference to Williams's behavior. "It was about her integrity, and anybody who doesn't get that is perpetuating the erasure that so many black women feel when they are trying to speak up for themselves".

"I don't know how you draw an African-American person without making them look like an African-American person", he said. "Regardless of whether that was the cartoonist's intention, [racist caricatures are] an important frame through which many people will understand the image - and I find it very hard to believe that Knight would not be aware of those connotations", says Dr Tom Davies, senior lecturer in American History at the University of Sussex.

Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston also defended the cartoon.

Things seemed to settle down as Williams went on to break Osaka for a 3-1 lead, but she gave the break right back in the next game with a pair of double faults, prompting the former champion to smash her racquet on the court.

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Australian newspaper somehow doubles down on controversial Serena Williams cartoon