A cartoon sporting tennis ace Serena Williams, which many claimed was racist when it saw the light of day in Australia, violated no media standards, the country’s media watchdog has ruled.
"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 Australian Press Council said, adding:
"The council considers 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”.
In a project for Melbourne’s Herald Sun, cartoonist Mark Knight drew Williams having a tantrum in an exaggerated fashion, with many noting that she looked much like an ape in the said images.
The depiction of Williams showed the 23-time major winner reacting angrily during her loss to Naomi Osaka in the final of the US Open. In the controversial cartoon, she was vigorously jumping up and down on a tennis racquet next to a baby’s dummy, the whole scene being deemed by many as discriminatory and offensive, as it allegedly featured racist stereotypes of African-American people.
In response, the Council dwelled at length on the dummy in the production, noting that the cartoonist showed her "spitting it", which the watchdog said was "a non-racist caricature familiar to most Australian readers".
Among those who lashed out at the cartoon was Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who claimed that it “reduced one of the greatest sportswomen alive to racist and sexist tropes".
Knight rose in his defence telling the Herald Sun that the cartoon was “just about Serena on the day having a tantrum.” "I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman, so this whole business that I am some sort of racist is just made up", he said.