Cartoonist slammed for perceived racist depiction of Serena Williams

Cartoonist slammed for perceived racist depiction of Serena Williams

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (Nine Network/CNN) – An Australian newspaper has doubled down on a cartoon of multiple Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams widely denounced as racist both at home and in the U.S.

Mark Knight, the popular cartoonist for The Herald Sun, also drew fire from the world's most popular author.

"'Well done on turning one of the greatest sportswomen alive to racist and sexist tropes,'" said Knight, reading J.K. Rowling's criticism of his cartoon. "To have J.K. Rowling trolling me is … well, it's something I didn't expect in life."

The "Harry Potter" writer was just one of thousands who've taken to social media to condemn Knight's depiction of Williams at last weekend's U.S. Open final.

"One of the greatest players of all time, who I have admired and drawn many times, having a dummy spit," Knight said. "And I can say that when I drew the cartoon, it was like, 'Yeah, that's not bad,' and off it went."

The U.S. National Association of Black Journalists labeled it a "repugnant cartoon," saying it "exudes racist and sexist caricatures of both women," referring to both Williams and her U.S. Open opponent Naomi Osaka.

"Her facial expressions are one of somebody having a dummy spit. I don't know how I could have done it any other way," Knight said.

Australian Senator Derryn Hinch said he supports Knight.

"It's a great cartoon, and I don't think there's any racism there at all," Hinch said.

Fellow Australian politician Matthew Guy, leader of the opposition in Victoria, isn't so sure.

"I don't like the look of it. But I'm not going to call him a racist, but I don't like the look of it," Guy said.

Knight has the support of his bosses, who've dismissed the online attacks against him.

"In this world of perpetual outrage where people are looking for victimhood, nothing surprises me," said Damon Johnston, the Herald Sun editor.

Bernice King, daughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., called that response "unfortunate … without consideration for the powerful historical context of such imagery."

Knight said he's not a racist, but he may rethink what he depicts in future drawings, in part because of threats over the cartoon.

"My family are worried and upset at the threats that we're getting," he said. "Is it going to affect me in the future? Maybe it will. Maybe I will have to pull my punches."

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