GQ has not immediately responded to CNN, but in response to a Twitter thread Mick Rouse, research manager for GQ, according to his Twitter bio, tweeted: "Because it was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena's US Open apparel that he designed)".
Williams' cover, in particular, sparked some controversy because it featured the Woman of the Year title with "Woman" in quotations - a move that GQ says is purely artistic but some have considered disrespectful to Williams.
Serena Williams, in all her athletic glory, has rightfully been crowned as GQ's Woman of the Year.
The representation of her as a "woman" has drawn some criticism, particularly in the USA, as the debate around race and gender intensifies, with drawing direct comparison to Gal Gadot's equivalent cover a year ago.
Williams has been at the centre of heated public debate already this year.
Last year, in a post on reddit, Williams opened up about being "called a man" because of her appearance. "I was different to [sister] Venus: She was thin and tall and attractive, and I am strong and muscular - and handsome, but, you know, it was just totally different".
"I've been called man because I appeared outwardly strong".
The controversy rose to melting point when Herald Sun cartoonist published a caricature of the U.S. star having a tantrum while jumping on her racket.
She also wrote a heartfelt letter to her mother a year ago after becoming a mother, briefly touching on accusations over drug use.
"No, I have always had far too much integrity to behave dishonestly. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this badass body and proud of it)".