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Cartoon branded as 'racist' and 'sexist' for depiction of Serena Williams' US Open confrontation

A cartoon, depicting tennis star Serena Williams' confrontation in the U.S. Open final with an umpire, is being branded as 'sexist' and 'racist' by critics. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

An Australian newspaper sparked outrage on Monday for publishing a cartoon depicting Serena Williams' confrontation with an umpire at the U.S. Open finals over the weekend. Critics are calling the image "racist" and "sexist."

What does the cartoon show?

Artist Mark Knight of The Herald Sun drew a tantrum-throwing Williams as a baby, stomping on her racket with a pacifier on the ground in front of her. In the background, the chair umpire is shown telling Williams' opponent, Naomi Osaka, "Can you just let her win?"

Osaka — who is of Japanese and Haitian descent — appears as a blonde in the cartoon, which led to accusations that Knight had "whitewashed" her image. It should be noted that Osaka did have her ponytail dyed blonde for the Sunday match.

Knight's post quickly drew criticism on social media, with "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling tweeting out, "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."

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Knight drew "facial features reflecting the dehumanizing Jim Crow caricatures so common in the 19th and 20th centuries."

How did the artist respond?

Responding to one critic on Monday who accused him of sexism, Knight tweeted another image saying "Here's a cartoon I drew a few days before when Australian male tennis player Kyrgios at the U.S. Open was behaving badly. Don't bring gender into it when it's all about behavior. I'll accept your apology in writing."

What's the background?

On Saturday, Williams berated chair umpire Carlos Ramos for penalizing her over allegedly getting coaching signals and for breaking her racket. She accused Ramos of sexism and called him a "thief," which earned another penalty, costing her a game. Williams ultimately lost to Osaka and was fined $17,000 for the violations against her.

What did others say?

The public has been divided on whether Williams was out of line or Ramos was, and former tennis stars came down on both sides of the issue.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King defended Williams in a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday, saying that Ramos had abused his power, and that he had treated Williams differently than he would have treated a male player.

King wrote, "Ultimately, a woman was penalized for standing up for herself."

But another tennis great, Martina Navratilova penned an op-ed printed in the New York Times on Monday, saying that Williams was in the wrong — regardless of whether a man would have gotten away with the violations she was docked for.

Navratilova said that Ramos had little choice in penalizing Williams, and that it is "on individual players to conduct themselves with respect for the sport we love so dearly."

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