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'Astonishingly Racist' Serena Williams Cartoon Did Not Breach Media Standards

THAT cartoon of Serena Williams did not breach media standards, according to Australia's media watchdog.

The cartoon, published in the Herald Sun, was drawn by cartoonist Mark Knight and depicted the showdown between Williams and Naomi Osaka during last year's US Open Final.

In it, Williams is drawn with exaggerated lips as she throws a temper tantrum on court, while Osaka is depicted as white and blonde. Umpire Carlos Rarlos is drawn asking Osaka to "let her win".

The cartoon faced enormous global backlash and drew several complaints to the Australian Press Council, with many condemning it as being both sexist and racist.

The cartoon that started it all. Photo: Herald Sun.

But in an adjudication published in the newspaper on Monday, the council said it accepted the publication's argument it was in response to Williams' on-court "outburst".

“[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.

“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.”

READ MORE: Herald Sun Defends 'Astonishingly Racist' Serena Williams Cartoon

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The cartoon had drawn rampant accusations overseas , particularly in the US where a story published in the Washington Post claimed the cartoon reflected the "dehumanising Jim Crow caricatures so common in the 19th and 20th centures".

"The racist cartoon .... is repugnant on many levels," the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in the United States said.

"[It] not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams' depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like ... this cartoon grossly inaccurately depicts two women of color."

The response was different in Australia.

Knight said his cartoon had "nothing to do with race", a sentiment supported by Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston, while former News Corp Australia chairman Michael Miller said it was another example of political correctness gone too far.

READ MORE: Why Does Australia Have A Racist Problem?

In handing down it's conclusions,  the Press Council acknowledged several found the cartoon offensive, but considered whether the publication had breached media standards to take "reasonable steps to avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice … unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest".

It found there was "sufficient" public interest in commenting on behaviour and sportsmanship during a dispute between high-profile players.

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au