Controversial Serena Williams cartoon not racist, watchdog rules
Some claimed the caricature used racist and sexist stereotypes
An Australian newspaper cartoon that depicted Serena Williams jumping in the air and spitting out a dummy after losing the US Open final to Naomi Osaka was not racist, the country's press watchdog has said.
The controversial cartoon, which appeared in The Herald Sun, was labelled by some as racist and sexist when it was published, did not breach media standards, the Australian Press Council said.
Critics had complained that the caricature used racist and sexist stereotypes of African-American people.
The cartoon, which can be seen below, was published shortly after the bad-tempered US Open final, in which Williams had a dispute with the umpire over his allegedly sexist treatment.
— Damon Johnston (@damonTheOz) September 11, 2018
The Australian Press Council received complaints that Williams' depiction "may cause it to be an offensive and sexist representation of a woman and a prejudicial racial stereotype of African-American people generally".
But they accepted the newspaper's defence that the cartoon was not racist or sexist, and instead was intended to depict her behaviour as childish as she spit a pacifier out of her mouth.
“[The Herald Sun] said it was depicting the moment when, in a highly animated tantrum, Ms Williams smashed a racquet and loudly abused the chair umpire, calling him a thief, a liar and threatening that he would never umpire her matches again,” the council said.
“It said it wanted to capture the on-court tantrum of Ms Williams using satire, caricature, exaggeration and humour, and the cartoon intended to depict her behaviour as childish by showing her spitting a pacifier out while she jumps up and down.”
The council did acknowledge that while some readers found it offensive, there was "sufficient public interest in commenting on behaviour and sportsmanship during a significant dispute between a tennis player with a globally high profile and an umpire at the US Open final".
"As such, the council does not consider that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to avoid causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice, without sufficient justification in the public interest."