Aly argued that the cartoon’s critics are not necessarily taking issue with the drawing of Serena, but with the cartoon of what is essentially “a random black face”.
“At the moment when he goes to actually draw Serena, Serena’s actually absent from the picture… That face is not a face of Serena Williams. That’s not picking characters or features from Serena Williams’ face and heightening them,” he said.
“So at that point, what the critics are saying is you’re no longer caricaturing Serena, you’re caricaturing a people.”
Aly continued to say the reason people in the United States are so outraged by the cartoon, which depicts the 36-year-old tennis legend as having a tantrum on court, is because similar illustrations were commonplace during America’s Jim Crow era of enforced racial segregation.
Fifi Box, who was Aly’s co-panelist on last night’s show, said caricatures are always unflattering and “nobody is going to love the caricature of themselves.”
Aly responded: “Yeah, but it’s whether you see that and see that there are features that are particulate to Serena, or you see ‘Ah, it’s a black person, let’s make big lips’.”
Knight’s cartoon has received backlash from all around the world, with vocal critics including JK Rowling, Kathy Griffin and Nicki Minaj.
It depicts Williams with a large nose and lips. A dummy lies near her feet and she is shown jumping in the air with clenched fists as if having a toddler tantrum.
Naomi Osaka, the 20-year-old Haitian-Japanese player who won the match, is shown in the background as a white, blonde woman.