Last September the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper published a cartoon of Serena Williams that drew global condemnation for what some considered to be a racist depiction. The Australian Press COuncil had now weighed in on the cartoon and has deemed that there was no breach of its standards of practice.
The cartoon, by Mark Knight, showed Serena Williams reacting angrily during her loss to Naomi Osaka in the final of the US Open. She is depicted with her mouth open wide, hands in fists and jumping above a broken tennis racket with a baby’s pacifier. The umpire was shown telling a blond, slender woman, meant to be Osaka, “Can you just let her win?”
— damon johnston (@damonheraldsun) September 11, 2018
After its ruling, the Australian Press Council acknowledged that some readers found the cartoon offensive, but that there was sufficient public interest in commenting on the behavior of a player with such a high profile.
Some critics described it as a clear example of a stereotype facing black women. The press council said it received complaints about the cartoon being racist and sexist, but they believe the newspaper’s depiction was not racist but in response to Williams’ behavior during the match.
“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.”
**Spitting the dummy is an Australian term for a tantrum.**
On Monday, Knight said 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,” he said.
Williams has won the Australian Open seven times. She returned for the tournament last month but lost in the quarterfinals.