FAMU female athletes react to cartoon of Serena Williams at US Open 2018 Final

Cartoon drawn by Mark Knight of Serena Williams after losing to Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open Final tournament
Photo Credit: Mark Knight

After losing to Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open Final tournament, Serena Williams was the subject of a potentially racially charged cartoon drawn by Mark Knight after her controversy at the U.S. Open final.

Williams and Osaka were competing in the last Grand Slam competition of the year when Williams engaged with the umpire multiple times in the second set after being accused of cheating and breaking her racket. This led to infractions and point deductions against Williams and eventually Osaka won the match 6-4.

The cartoon shows the 23-time Grand Slam champion as a big lipped woman with scraggly hair and a build of wide girth with a pacifier and broken racket beneath her; while Osaka appears to be whitewashed even though she comes from Haitian and Japanese descent. 

Female athletes at Florida A&M University (FAMU) responded to this cartoon with frustration and offence.

Fredericka Tucker, a sophomore biology student on the FAMU tennis team, saw racial intent behind the drawing and she thought Williams was targeted for her attitude because of her gender.

“I believe it is racist because she is depicted as a mad black woman as society portrays us (black women) as, when in reality, everyone is competitive about a sport they invest their time in,” Tucker said.

“Serena Williams is not the only woman tennis player that has broken a racket before. I believe that because she is such a great athlete, a black woman at that, she is targeted more heavily. She makes one mistake and all hell breaks loose. It is not fair.”

Akievia Hickman, a junior business administration student on the FAMU cheer team, perceived the photo as demeaning to black women around the world and ‘demeaning to black excellence.’

“First and foremost, Serena Williams has been one of my role models since I was little. Her ambitious drive, integrity, and ideal sportsmanship are distinct characteristics that make Serena the superior player she is today.”

“Regarding the cartoon of Serena Williams, I believe that this poor illustration is a demeaning portrayal of black excellence. This society is always eager to present African Americans as the ‘Ugly American.’ In my opinion, her real actions are contrary compared to the cartoon. She awaited a simple apology as would any player of any color. During the award presentation, Serena Williams was even optimistic and encouraged the crowd not to discourage or discredit her opponent, but to celebrate. How does that woman compare to the woman in the cartoon? It doesn’t. This cartoon definitely does not define the woman Serena Williams is. In the words of Serena, ‘I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.’”

As of Sept. 12, 2018, Knight’s twitter page has been deleted.