Serena Williams melts down, cartoonist branded racist

“I take pride in tackling all the issues in cartooning; everything... I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, I can’t draw that because that’s a no-go area.’"

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Tennis star Serena Williams was making headlines earlier this week following a clash between her and an umpire during the final match at the 2018 US Open Tennis Championships. The number-one-world ranked athlete threw a veritable temper tantrum on the court Saturday, which began when she incurred a penalty and escalated as she was penalized further by umpire Carlos Ramos for her behaviour.

The incident began when Williams was penalized for allegedly receiving direction from her coach on the sidelines via hand signals, which is a violation of US Open rules. Williams, clearly unhappy with the ruling, went on to berate Ramos for his judgment, repeatedly demanding that he apologize for branding her a cheater. “You owe me an apology!” she shouted repeatedly.

Williams received a second penalty for throwing her racket to the ground and breaking it after losing a point. The third and final penalty came as Williams continued to castigate the umpire, saying, “You stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too.” It was at this point that Ramos called a code violation for verbal abuse. 

Williams ultimately lost the match to Naomi Osaka with a score of 6-2, 6-4. Williams’s penalties carry a combined total of $17,000 in fines. This is not the first time she has been in trouble for her interactions with officials. She was disqualified from a semifinal match at the 2009 US Open for threatening a lineswoman

Both during the match and in the aftermath, Williams made claims that the penalties against her came from a sexist umpire. “For me to say ‘thief’, and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark,” she said, arguing that male athletes can and have said worse without receiving penalties.

Later this week, it was no longer only Williams and Ramos being criticized for their conduct, but also an Australian cartoonist for his depiction of the incident. Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight is being called a racist and sexist for his portrayal of Williams, showing her stomping on the court in the manner of a toddler in the throws of a temper tantrum. Critics say his exaggerated depiction of Williams’s physical features is reminiscent of historically racist cartoons and that he white washed the appearance of Japan’s Osaka by drawing her with a blonde ponytail. 

However, a perusal of Knight’s body of editorial cartoons shows that no one is safe from his criticism and he regularly depicts all sorts of public figures in an unflattering light, grossly exaggerating their physical features. And what seems to have escaped many of his critics is the fact that Osaka actually was sporting a dyed blonde ponytail during the match in question. 

Knight is defending his work, saying, “I’m not a racist… I was drawing cartoons about racial politics in South Africa before most of these people were born.” 

He questioned the imposition by social media critics of no-go areas in cartooning and other critical media. “I take pride in tackling all the issues in cartooning; everything… I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, I can’t draw that because that’s a no-go area.’ What does that say about the way the world’s going?”

The cartoonist suspended his own Twitter account early this week due to abuse and threats toward him and his family as a result of the cartoon.  


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Dean Tea

Dean Tea is a curiosity-driven writer and editor based in Gatineau, Quebec. He has stood as a candidate both provincially and federally and currently sits on the board of the Libertarian Party of Canada. A bilingual student of linguistics, he will receive his Bachelor of Arts from Carleton University in December 2018.

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