An editorial cartoonist named Mark Knight is catching a ton of well-deserved backlash for his depiction of Serena Williams’ US Open loss last Saturday—Some of it from Williams fans, some of it from very famous Williams fans. Fans like J.K. Rowling.
The cartoon, which ran in the Australian newspaper Herald Sun, featured an undeniably racist caricature of Williams stomping on her racket. Latent misogyny aside (where was all the fuss when Marcos Baghdatis destroyed not one but four rackets in the 2012 US Open? And the countless other male players who’ve shredded rackets in frustration over the decades?), the “likeness” is not so much a likeness as it is a Jim Crow-era, Sambo caricature of a Black Person.
Because that is what the image does—it denigrates the world’s greatest athlete to untrue and irrelevant stereotypes. So said Rowling, in a more succinct manner in a Monday morning tweet: “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,” wrote the author.
The “second great sportswoman” Rowling refers to is the Haitian-Japanese Naomi Osaka, portrayed in the background of Knight’s comic as a white chick with blonde hair. While Williams is a furious, hysterical bulky black woman throwing a tantrum in a tutu, her opponent has been, quite literally, whitewashed and defaced.
Much has been made of U.S. Open umpire Carlos Ramos’s penalties against Williams during Saturday’s women’s singles final against Osaka. While some supported the umpire’s decision to penalize the tennis legend for calling him a “thief,” others felt it was way out of line considering male players rarely face similarly strict punishment.
Rowling wasn’t the only one to call Knight’s cartoon out for the grossly racist and offensive illustration it was. Thousands of infuriated Twitter responses expressed the same disappointed and disgusted sentiments.
Tennis great Billie Jean King had weighed in on Saturday’s controversial game, praising Williams for calling out the blatant double standard.
Williams was fined $17,000 for court violations in the match—an inconsequential punishemnt when stacked against Knight’s vile cartoon. The Herald Sun retweeted the image and has yet to reply to the litany of social media outrage as of time of writing.