Serena Williams Cartoon Controversy

Huda Khan

Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper, wrote a cartoon about Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams, that has been marked racist by people in Australia as well as the United States. In a statement released, the editor of the newspaper Damon Johnston said that the cartoon “has nothing to do with gender or race.” He claims that the picture depicted the tantrum Williams had in the US open final when she disputed with the umpire about being sexist.


The cartoon shows Williams jumping up and down with a broken racket by her side. It shows a racist depiction with exaggerated big lips and a nose that was used to portray black people in the U.S. during the Jim Crow times. In the back, the umpire is seen saying “Can you just let her win?” to Williams’ opponent, Naomi Osaka (who is from Japan),  shown as a skinny blond woman.

(Photo: the Herald Sun)

The National Association of Black Journalists said that the cartoon “(It) not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams’ depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like.” They go on to say that ”the art of editorial cartooning is a visual dialogue on the issues of the day, yet this cartoon grossly inaccurately depicts two women of color at the US Open, one of the grandest stages of professional sports.”

Johnston then went on to post a image on twitter about the new front page of the newspaper with the headline “Welcome to the PC World.” The paper included images that were previously racist, with the cover including a “Satire Free Zone” stamp.


(Photo: Twitter/ Herald Sun)


Cartoonist Mark Knight, who has been working for the Herald Sun for decades, said he was surprised by the angry reaction which he claims only happened after people in the U.S picked it up on twitter. Knight later that day deleted his twitter account because of all the criticism. Benjamin Law, an Australian author, says that it’s “embarrassing to see the Herald Sun doesn’t realize defending Knight’s cartoon supports the case that swathes of Australian media is blind to its own racism.”

This was not the first time Knight’s cartoons caused outrage. On August 10, a cartoon was released depicting faceless black men destroying a subway station in Melbourne, as a response to an African gang crime done in the city. Rohan Leppert, local lawmaker, responded to the cartoon calling it “utterly shameful.”