The offending cartoon, drawn by Mark Knight, appeared in the Australian newspaper The Herald Sun on Monday, September 10. It depicts the 36-year-old tennis star as an angry baby stomping on her tennis racquet.
The cartoon comes a day after Williams was fined $17,000 for three code violations during her U.S. Open women’s final match against Naomi Osaka on Saturday, September 8, during which she smashed her racquet and argued with the umpire.
On Twitter, celebrities and common folk are criticizing Knight for playing into the “angry black woman” stereotype.
“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 tweeted.
“This reprehensible and racist,” wrote Erivo, a 31-year-old actress starring in the film Widows. “It also warps the actual event and misses the point of what actually happened @Knightcartoons. You should be ashamed of yourself. Yet another white guy disrespecting a black woman because you still don’t see us as multi dimensional human beings.”
Knight has neither rescinded nor apologized for the cartoon. He even defended it after sports radio host Julie DiCaro asked where this cartoon was “for all the men who have broken their rackets over the years.”
“Well Julie here’s a cartoon I drew a few days before when Australian male tennis player Kyrgios at the U.S. Open was behaving badly,” Knight responded, posting a cartoon of his in which he depicted an umpire giving a “pep talk” to misbehaving Australian player Nick Kyrgios.
“Don’t bring gender into it when it’s all about behaviour,” he added. “I’ll accept your apology in writing.”
However, critics say Knight’s Kyrgios cartoon reinforces the point that male tennis players are treated differently than their female counterparts. Both Williams and fellow tennis legend Billie Jean King have pointed out that men’s tantrums on court aren’t penalized as harshly.
“Women are treated differently in most arenas of life,” King, 74, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post on September 9. “This is especially true for women of color. And what played out on the court yesterday happens far too often.”
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