Controversial Serena Williams Cartoon Deemed Not Racist by Australian Press Council

Following Naomi Osaka’s win over Serena Williams in September at the 2018 U.S. Open, an Australian newspaper published a cartoon critical of Williams that received worldwide attention and was widely deemed as racist, sexist and offensive. However, the Australian Press Council today declared it wasn’t.

“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, rather showing her as ‘spitting the dummy,’ a nonracist caricature familiar to most Australian readers,” the Australian Press Council wrote in a statement. (The phrase “spitting the dummy” is slang for acting out in a childish manner.)

The cartoon was released after Nike-backed Williams engaged in a verbal altercation with chair umpire Carlos Ramos in protest of the multiple code violations she received.

The image created by cartoonist Mark Knight and published in The Herald Sun featured Williams breaking a tennis racket and stomping her feet with a baby pacifier on the ground. In the background is a woman asking the umpire, “Can you just let her win?” (The woman in the background has been widely described as white with blonde hair. Osaka, an Adidas athlete, was born to a Haitian father and Japanese mother.)

Serena Williams Cartoon US Open Nike
The controversial Serena Williams cartoon teased on the cover of an Australian newspaper.
CREDIT: Amer Ghazzal/Shutterstock

Although the imagery from September and brought back up today did not show Williams in a positive light, Nike released an ad yesterday narrated by the tennis great that showed how powerful and inspiring of a woman she is. The Swoosh delivered an ad via social media (and later during the 2019 Academy Awards) titled “Dream Crazier,” featuring several clips of female athletes who have made a positive impact on the world of sports.

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