Much Ado About Nothing: Comparing Offensive Cartoons

Posted by mlemaire on February 21st, 2013

When I hopped on Twitter yesterday morning and saw Kentucky fans getting riled up about an editorial cartoon in the Louisville Courier-Journal that poked fun at Kentucky star Nerlens Noel‘s serious knee injury, I was immediately reminded of the time I was dragged into a similar, but not the same, controversy over an editorial cartoon. In the Fall of 2010, I was the Maryland football beat writer for the student newspaper, The Diamondback, when one morning I woke up to more e-mails from purported readers than I had received working for the paper in the previous two years combined. Much to my chagrin, none of the e-mails were congratulatory; instead, most of them were angry remarks over some cartoon the paper had published that morning. Since the editorial staff was responsible for printing cartoons and I worked on the sports staff, I had no idea what cartoon everyone was talking about, so I quickly hustled down to the lobby of my building and picked up a copy of The Diamondback. I flipped to the editorial page and deflated when I found the cartoon everyone was talking about. It was this one.

Published October 26, 2010 by The Diamondback

Published October 26, 2010 in The Diamondback

If this cartoon had run a month earlier, it just would have been a relatively unfunny cartoon that no one would have given a second thought. Unfortunately, not even a week before, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Pete DeSouza had suffered fractures in both of his lower legs as a result of crashing into a car while driving a scooter on campus. Given the context, the cartoon had quickly gone from unfunny and forgettable to a big deal. In defense of the cartoonist, who quickly apologized, she was unaware of the incident involving DeSouza and had just meant the cartoon to be commentary about public safety on campus (and scooters were everywhere at Maryland, especially amongst athletes), but the damage had been done.

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