Watchdog Group: Controversial Serena Williams Cartoon Did Not Breach Media Standards

Serena Williams cartoon is not racist, the Australian Press Council rules.
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The Australian Press Council ruled Monday that a racist cartoon of tennis stars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka that was published in an Australian newspaper last year after Williams’s outburst at the 2018 U.S. Open Final did not breach media standards.

In its ruling, the Press Council said that it "acknowledged that some readers found the cartoon offensive," but added that the council accepted the "publisher’s claim that it does not depict Ms. Williams as an ape, rather showing her as ‘spitting the dummy’.

"Specifically, concern was expressed that the cartoon depicted Ms. Williams with large lips, a broad flat nose, a wild afro-styled ponytail hairstyle different to that worn by Ms. Williams during the match and positioned in an ape-like pose," the council said in a statement. "The council considered that the cartoon uses exaggeration and absurdity to make its point but accepts the publisher's claim that it does not depict Ms. Williams as an ape, rather showing her as `spitting the dummy', a non-racist caricature familiar to most Australian readers."

The cartoon, by illustrator Mark Knight, appeared in the Herald Sun, based in Melbourne and reprinted, under the headline "Welcome to the PC World."

It shows Williams jumping on a broken racket, with a baby's pacifier in her mouth after a dispute with a chair umpire in the U.S. Open final against Osaka, which she lost 6-2, 6-4. Osaka is shown in the cartoon as a blond woman.

Knight told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he was "very happy" with the council's ruling.

"I will not be changing the way I draw cartoons because I think I'm a very free and fair cartoonist and I accept issues on their merits and draw them as such," Knight said.

During the match, Williams received a warning from the chair umpire, whom she called a "thief" and a "liar," for violating a rule that had been rarely enforced against receiving coaching help from the sidelines or stands.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner has won the Australian Open seven times, including 2017 when she was a few weeks pregnant.