This past Saturday, the tennis world was stunned at the events of the women’s singles final match on the US Open, the last Grand Slam tournament for the year. American Tennis superstar Serena Williams took on Naomi Osaka representing Japan in a heated contest further complicated by the strict rule enforcement of assigned umpire Carlos Ramos, who burned Williams three times with code violation calls that cost her one point and a game, leading to Osaka winning. Accusations of sexism and racism against Williams began surfacing, and an opinion cartoon from the Land Down Under is adding fuel to fire.
According to USA Today, a cartoon that was printed on The Herald Sun newspaper of Melbourne, Australia this Monday, September 10, is escalating the accusation of racist actions being leveled at Serena Williams, darling of professional tennis worldwide, following the barrage of violations called at her during the fateful US Open women’s finals against Naomi Osaka. Drawn by Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight, the piece depicted Williams angrily jumping up and down on her broken racket next to a pacifier, while Umpire Carlos Ramos asks Osaka if she could just let the American win. Williams is drawn with facial features and body shape typical of stereotypical cartoon portrayals of African-Americans from the “Jim Crow” era.
Needless to say, supporters of Williams went up in arms at social media. One of them is “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who wrote a scathing Twitter commentary on Knight’s cartoon for the Australian paper, decrying not only the stereotyped art style for Serena, but also alleged “whitewashing” of US Open women’s champion Osaka to make the half-Haitian player look Caucasian. Rowling’s re-tweet has now reached over 100,000 likes and 30,000 comments, both still increasing.
Mark Knight however has defended his work for The Herald Sun, stating that it had nothing to do with Serena William’s race or gender and more to do with her personal attitude during the US Open women’s finals. “There’s nothing inaccurate in the cartoon, but I’m sorry it’s being taken by social media and distorted so much,” he said Monday, September 10. “The cartoon is about Serena, it was about her poor behavior. It had nothing to do with race.”
The Williams-Osaka match drama began in set 2, when Ramos warned Williams about her coach giving her instructions from the stand. A point penalty was given when Serena struck her racket to the court following a broken serve, and a game penalty for accusing the umpire of lying. For all these Williams was fined $17,000, but the crowd took her side and booed Ramos from the court. Williams did however congratulate Osaka for her victory during the trophy awarding ceremony.
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