An Australian media watchdog group has ruled a cartoon depicting Serena Williams in an “ape-like” pose on the tennis court is neither racist nor sexist.
The image from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp came under global fire for what many interpreted as an offensive depiction of the tennis champ when it was published last September. On Sunday, the Australian Press Council ruled in favour of the publication, The Herald Sun which argued the cartoon was a reflection of William’s on-court tantrum following her loss to Naomi Osaka. The Council rejected the argument Williams was in an “ape-like” pose.
“[The Herald Sun] said it was depicting the moment when, in a highly animated tantrum, Ms. 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 Council said in their ruling, according to The Guardian. “It said it wanted to capture the on-court tantrum of Ms. 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.”
The Council’s ruling accepts that cartoonist invoke caricature and exaggeration to depict people and events.
However, there are plenty who believe the image is inherently racist, showing Williams with sexist and racist features including large lips, a broad nose and an afro-styled ponytail. Her opponent Osaka, who is of Japanese-Haitian descent, is depicted as a slender, white, blonde woman.
The media watchdog acknowledged readers’ complaints but announced “its standards of not causing offence or prejudice were not breached.”