Australian athletes wear blackface as Serena and Venus Williams

Rex Christensen
September 20, 2018

Just a week after the Melbourne-based Herald Sun newspaper sparked outrage with a cartoon of Serena Williams that was slammed as racist, three Australian amateur athletes have been caught wearing blackface makeup to model themselves after the tennis star, her sister Venus, and an Australian rules football player of African descent.

Three Tasmanian footballers dressed up in blackface costumes for Mad Monday celebrations.

"Some Australians still have no clue what is considered racist", Twitter user Francis Gonzalez tweeted. The incident comes on the heel of a cartoon that was widely decried as racist, depicting Serena Williams during her U.S. Open incident less than two weeks ago. And I'm a person who is fed up with today's over-the-top political correctness.

"If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very boring indeed", the paper stubbornly wrote.

Blackface is when non-black people don makeup and costumes to appear as a person of colour - a practice which has always been condemned by the Aboriginal community, civil rights and anti-discrimination groups in Australia.

While the trio have been reprimanded, the club insisted that their "actions were never intended to be racist in any way" and "all they meant to do was dress as one of their sporting idols".

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Michael Mansell, a Tasmanian Aboriginal activist who played football for North Hobart and Launceston, called the behavior "offensive to most reasonable people" and told ABC that "the message is that [people] are free to make a mockery of people who are not white".

Speaking with Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), an Australian Football League spokesperson said individual football clubs are responsible for participating in Mad Day celebrations, marking the end of the season.

"We will be working with the league and club to get more information and to see how we can assist in providing education for the players".

Tasmania's anti-discrimination commissioner, Sarah Bolt, frowned at the players' actions but stopped short of describing them as racist.

"People enjoy playing their sports, but they are entertaining in front of the public and therefore they need to acknowledge the values that the public expects them to adhere to", he said.

The photo was posted to a popular Mad Monday Facebook group, but is no longer visible on the page.

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