Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

What You Need to Know About the Controversial Serena Williams Cartoon Situation

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Serena Williams has been the face of much criticism over the past few days regarding the way things played out at the US Open Women’s Single’s Final. She was given a coaching violation during the first set because the umpire, Carlos Ramos, witnessed Serena’s coach making a gesture that Serena repeatedly announced was “not a code” and that she was not receiving in-game coaching.

The situation grew tenser after Williams smashed her racket onto the court and received another violation plus a point penalty. She continued to state that she had not been cheating and that she would never. During a break between games, she demanded an apology from umpire Ramos and accused him of being a “thief” for taking the game away from her. The umpire proceeded to hand her another code violation for verbal abuse – which only intensified Serena’s disbelief at the situation.

Serena believed the entire matter was an example of sexism – specifically in tennis – as she stated, “I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say he’s a thief because I thought he took a game from me. But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’ It blows my mind. I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions, and that wants to express themselves, and wants to be a strong woman.”

Courtesy: NBC New York

Some admired her for her willingness to stand up for herself and voice what she felt went wrong in the exchanges between her and the umpire. Others recognized that same strength in her but were quick to point out that her behavior was still inexcusable – as it wasn’t the first time Serena had acted in such a way on the court. Russell Fuller, a BBC tennis correspondent, says “Serena has been the victim of misogyny and racism throughout her life, but that does not make her immune from sanction when she steps out of line.”

To add more fuel to the fire, Australian cartoon artist Mark Knight depicted the events of that day in a way that led to further controversy. The cartoon was published in an Australian newspaper and received backlash for being offensive in more ways than one. J.K. Rowling tweeted, “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.” While responding to a statement made by Damon Johnston – who defends the artist by assuring it had nothing to do with race or gender – Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, tweeted, “So unfortunate that this is your response; and without consideration for the painful historical context of such imagery and how it can support biases and racism today. Why wouldn’t a human being care about that?”

Courtesy: The Indian Express

The artist has made statements regarding his true intentions for the depiction. He assured it was solely meant to describe the tantrum Serena gave that day, and he is upset that people have interpreted it as anything but that. However, that hasn’t changed the minds of the people who claim the cartoon to be a form of “racist bigotry.”

Serena Williams reminded viewers that the growing displeasure with the way events unfolded at the tournament, whichever way you perceive it, shouldn’t take away from Naomi Osaka’s monumental win as the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title. Because regardless of the obvious need to address those serious topics brought on by Serena’s battle with remarks that have been labeled “sexist” and “racist,” Osaka deserves her moment of fame and celebration. 

Her Campus at Florida State University.