A media watchdog has ruled that a cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams which attracted global condemnation after being published by Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper was not in breach of the Australian Press Council’s standards of practice.
The depiction of Williams by cartoonist Mark Knight last September showed her reacting angrily to her loss to Naomi Osaka in the final of the U.S. Open. Williams is depicted with her mouth open wide, hands in fists and jumping above a broken tennis racket and a baby’s pacifier. In the background an umpire says to a player on the opposite side of the net, “Can you just let her win?”
Critics condemned the cartoon as racist and sexist.
In a ruling published Monday, the Australian Press Council said it “acknowledged that some readers found the cartoon offensive” but said there was sufficient public interesting in commenting on the behavior of a player with a globally high profile.
“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.
The Herald Sun said the cartoon used “satire, caricature, exaggeration, and humor” to depict an event of public interest.