In September of last year, Naomi Osaka overcame Serena Williams in the US Open Final to claim her first Grand Slam victory.
Sadly, that wasn’t the biggest story of the day, because Williams’ on-court meltdown quickly took centre stage.
The dust had hardly settled on that controversy when Mark Knight, an Australian ‘editorial cartoonist’, sketched that cartoon above, which was published in the Herald Sun.
Condemnation from around the world was swift, although the paper chose to double down with their front page in the days that followed.
I was pretty sure we’d heard the last of this one, but now the Australian Press Council has ruled on whether or not the cartoon was racist.
This comes from the Guardian:
…the Australian Press Council accepted the Herald Sun’s argument that the cartoon was in response to Williams’ “outburst” on the court at the US Open final, and rejected suggestions that the tennis champion 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.
“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.”
Naturally, not everyone agrees, and many prominent figures made their disgust with the cartoon well known at the time of publishing:
…Bernice King, the chief executive of the King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, said the Herald Sun’s stance was “without consideration for the painful historical context of such imagery and how it can support biases and racism today”.
Author JK Rowling said the Knight drawing had reduced “one of the greatest sportswomen alive to racist and sexist tropes”.
Complainants to the council had said that the depiction was a sexist and racist stereotype of African-Americans, with its large lips, broad flat nose and wild afro-styled ponytail hairstyle.
They said it contrasted with Osaka, a Japanese-Haitian, who was depicted as a white woman with blonde hair and no exaggerated features.
The Australian Press Council may have handed down their ruling, but I’m pretty sure they won’t be changing the minds of many.
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