World News

Serena Williams Cartoon, Called Racist, Gets New Life — on Paper’s Front Page

Posted September 12, 2018 1:53 a.m. EDT

SYDNEY, Australia — An Australian newspaper has defended its decision to publish a provocative cartoon of the tennis star Serena Williams, using the image again — this time on its front page — and railing against “politically correct” critics who deemed the drawing racist.

The headline “Welcome to PC World” — accompanied by caricatures of Ms. Williams, Australian politicians, President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea — was displayed on the front of the print edition of Tuesday evening’s Herald Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch.

“If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed,” the type below the headline said, referring to the cartoonist who created the drawing. Under the rendering of Williams are the words “Vetoed: large hair and lips, too angry.”

The cartoon, which mocked Williams’ behavior during last week’s U.S. Open women’s final, drew widespread criticism from athletes, fans and public figures around the world, including the author J.K. Rowling and the rapper Nicki Minaj. Critics said the exaggerated facial features of Williams were reminiscent of racist Jim Crow-era drawings and questioned why Naomi Osaka, the U.S. Open winner, who is of Japanese and Haitian descent, was drawn with blond hair and light skin.

In an editorial published Tuesday, the paper said the world had “officially gone mad,” and called accusations that the cartoon was racist “an attempt to defeat cartooning — and satire — with a politically correct barrage.”

Damon Johnston, Herald Sun editor, said on Twitter this week that Knight had the “full support of everyone” at the newspaper.

A spokeswoman for the paper said Wednesday that it would “let the coverage today speak for itself.”

Knight deactivated his Twitter account Tuesday to stop abuse directed toward his family, according to the Herald Sun. He has countered claims of racism by referring to his other cartoons, including one of Nick Kyrgios, an Australian tennis player who is of Greek and Malaysian descent.

Knight has fended off accusations of racism before, including for his depiction this year of African teenagers vandalizing a train station.

“I drew her as an African-American woman,” he said of Williams, according to the Herald Sun. “She wears these outrageous costumes when she plays tennis.”

“So this whole business that I’m some sort of racist calling on racial cartoons from the past is just made up,” he added. “It’s not there.”