Controversial Serena Williams cartoon didn’t breach press standards

Australia’s media watchdog on Monday ruled that a widely criticised cartoon showing tennis legend Serena Williams jumping next to a broken racket and a pacifier which she had spat, did not breach press standards.

The Australian Press Council ruled that the drawing, published by the Melbourne-based Herald Sun newspaper, was instead capturing Williams’ “on-court tantrum” at the 2018 US Open final “using satire, caricature, exaggeration and humour”, CNN reported.

The cartoon by the daily’s award-winning cartoonist, Mark Knight, was published shortly after the bad-tempered final, in which Williams had a dispute with the umpire over his allegedly sexist treatment.

The press watchdog received a number of complaints about the image, which drew international condemnation.

The Press Council said the newspaper “was depicting the moment when, in a highly animated tantrum, 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 Herald Sun) said it wanted to capture the on-court tantrum of 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,” it added.

The cartoon showed Williams with large, exaggerated lips and nose, while her opponent, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, is depicted as a skinny blonde woman, to whom the umpire is saying: “Can’t you just let her win?”

When it was first published, the US-based National Association of Black Journalists said the cartoon was “repugnant on many levels”, CNN reported.

At the time, Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston said the cartoon “had nothing to do with gender or race”.