Cartoon Of Serena Williams Some Described As Racist Did Not Break Rules, Says Media Watchdog

(Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Matt M. Miller Contributor
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A cartoon image depicting Serena Williams’ meltdown during the U.S. Open — Women’s Singles final has been approved in a ruling by the Australian Press Council after the image was accused of displaying a racist caricature.

The image, published by the Melbourne-based Herald Sun and drawn by cartoonist Mark Knight, shows Williams reacting in anger to her loss to Naomi Osaka in the final of the U.S. Open tournament, throwing a tantrum and jumping up and down over a broken tennis racket and baby pacifier.

In the background of the cartoon, umpire Carlos Ramos can be seen asking a figure that is supposed to be Naomi Osaka, “Can you just let her win?” (RELATED: Serena Williams Explodes After US Open Dispute With Umpire)

Critics complained to the Australian Press Council that Knight’s cartoons was both racist and sexist, claiming it shows “a clear example of a stereotype facing black women,” according to the Associated Press:

Critics of Knight’s cartoon described it as a clear example of a stereotype facing black women, depicting Williams as an irate, hulking, big-mouthed black woman jumping up and down.

The press council said it had received complaints from people who believed the cartoon was racist and sexist.

“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.

In one of the critiques of the image, the Washington Post said that the cartoon was a callback to the Jim Crow era:

Over the weekend, Knight published his reaction to Saturday’s U.S. Open women’s final — and in doing so, summoned the vile imagery that was largely popularized during the Jim Crow era.

Despite those who took offense, the Australian Press Council ruled that the cartoon is acceptable by their standards and does not, in fact, display racist or sexist content. The Australian Press Council said the following:

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.

Knight told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he was “very happy” with the ruling of the Council. “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. (RELATED: Tennis Umpires Reportedly Considering Serena Williams Boycott)

According to the Australian Press Council, The Herald Sun said that the cartoon “was not intended to depict negatively any race or gender and was drawn in a style that the cartoonist has drawn over several decades and was only intended to be a ‘sporting cartoon’ for the publication’s local readership.”