The Herald Sun’s front page on Wednesday.
The Herald Sun’s front page on Wednesday.

Front page slams cartoon critics

IF you thought the Herald Sun was going to back down, guess again.

The Melbourne newspaper behind a controversial cartoon which depicted Serena Williams' tantrum during the US Open women's final has responded to critics with an extraordinary front page.

Cartoonist Mark Knight created international headlines on Tuesday after his drawing of Williams, which showed her stomping on her racket, was criticised by some as racist because of the way he drew the 23-time grand slam winner's lips and hair.

Knight, and his employer, launched an immediate defence, arguing it was a depiction of the tennis star's behaviour and had nothing to do with race.

They doubled down in Wednesday's newspaper, printing a cover with the headline "Welcome to PC World", that featured several of Knight's cartoons with reasons why they could also be branded offensive.

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Previous Knight cartoons of Australian politicians and world leaders fill the page, including former prime minister Tony Abbott depicted as Hannibal Lecter with the caption "Banned: Big ears, cannibal mask," and a topless Kim Jong-un with the words "Blocked: Belly fat, Asian stereotype."

Knight's widely condemned cartoon depicting "the world's greatest tennis player spit the dummy" appears in the foreground with the caption: "Vetoed: Large hair and lips, too angry."

"If the self-apointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed," the subhead reads.

Knight, who posted his original cartoon to social media and suffered a horrible backlash which included death threats aimed at him and his family, appears to have deactivated his Twitter account.

The Herald Sun’s front page on Wednesday.
The Herald Sun’s front page on Wednesday.

Williams is yet to comment on the cartoon, which was discussed again on Wednesday's edition of Today.

"It's been a huge response," host Georgie Gardner said. "Huge reaction which I think, in itself, is fascinating. The vitriol and the hatred that has been unfurled as a result - I mean, the cartoonist, we understand, has security now outside his house. He's had death threats.

"Look, you know, the whole definition of satire is to exaggerate and to ridicule and to send up. Which is precisely what that cartoon does. 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.

"What I'm interested to know is have we heard from Serena Williams herself as to whether she's offended by it?"

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, rapper Nicki Minaj, comedian Kathy Griffin and Aussie basketball export Ben Simmons were among those critical of the cartoon.

Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, which publishes the Herald Sun, defended his cartoonist on Tuesday.

"Criticism of Mark Knight's Serena Williams cartoon shows the world has gone too PC & misunderstands the role of news media cartoons and satire," he said. "Poor behaviour in any sport needs to be called out."

Mark Knight's Serena Williams cartoon.
Mark Knight's Serena Williams cartoon.

The Washington Post ran a searing post about Knight's cartoon, calling it "racist" and reminiscent of the era of racial segregation in the United States.

"Knight draws facial features reflecting the dehumanising Jim Crow caricatures so common in the 19th and 20th centuries," commentator Michael Cavna wrote.

Other US media pointed out that Osaka was portrayed as petite and feminine with jet blonde straight hair - in real life she has dark curly hair with blonde streaks and is taller than Williams.

William's loss cost her a chance to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

During the match she was given three code violations by Carlos Ramos - the first for receiving coaching, the second for racquet abuse and the third for verbal abuse of the umpire.

The second and third violations earned Williams a point penalty and then a game penalty, giving Osaka a 5-3 second-set lead that effectively gifted her the title.

- with AFP



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