Defiant Australian paper reprints ‘racist’ Serena cartoon

Tim Clayton- Corbis via Getty Images

Australian newspaper Herald Sun reprinted a controversial illustration of Serena Williams after her argument at the US Open.

An Australian newspaper has found itself at the centre of a race row over its cartoonist's depiction of Serena Williams and is doubling down on its support for the artist.

Mr Knight's drawing which was published on Monday, was in response to her outburst in the US Open final on Sunday, which had the umpire asking Naomi Osaka of Japan, "Can you just let her win?".

Knight labelled the outcry against his cartoon as a sign that the "world has just gone crazy".

The veteran cartoonist added Wednesday he had suspended his Twitter account to protect his family and friends.

Others highlighted the "whitewashed" depiction of Osaka, who has Haitian and Japanese heritage; in the cartoon she has blonde hair and looks "white".

"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", Rowling wrote on Twitter.

Williams was "simply outplayed and lost her temper in a enormous and ill-disciplined blow-up", the column said.

Prior to disabling his account, his tweet of the cartoon had attracted more than 22,000 comments, a lot of them critical.

"I drew her as this powerful figure, which she is, she's strongly built". "Three days before I had drawn a cartoon about Nick Kyrgios being led off by the ears, like you used to do with your children", he said. That's what makes a cartoon different from a portrait. "It's getting harder to be a cartoonist in this insane anxious world - in this fragile angry humourless environment where leniency and understanding are in risky decline, and where psychic infections spread chaotically on social media with awful consequences".

Knight's depicting "the world's greatest tennis player spit the dummy" appears in the foreground with the caption: "Vetoed: Large hair and lips, too angry". It exaggerates her features in the way that - remember the cartoons we used to see of John Howard with the eyebrows, Tony Abbott's ears.

"I drew her as she is".

In 2016, Bill Leak was slammed for a cartoon that implied Indigenous fathers were alcoholics, poor parents and irresponsible, again painting a whole culture with historic and hurtful race-based stereotypes.

Whether it is was intended or not, Knight's cartoon has been widely condemned overseas with many arguing it reinforces a growing global perception that Australia is a country of racists, with one notable exception.

In the United States, the National Association of Black Journalists condemned Knight's cartoon, calling it "repugnant on many levels". "I think the only solution to that is for ordinary people to fight and retaliate back much louder, so they can hear us from the back of their stadiums".