Cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams not racist - Australian Press Council

SYDNEY, Feb 25 (Reuters) - A cartoon published in an Australian newspaper that depicted tennis star Serena Williams having a temper tantrum at the U.S. Open last year was not racist, Australia's media watchdog said on Monday.

The caricature of an angry Williams - with exaggerated lips and tongue and a wild plume of curly hair rising above her head as she stomped on her tennis racket - was condemned as racist by civil rights leaders, celebrities and fans.

Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper and cartoonist Mark Knight denied the image was racist.

The Australian Press Council said on Monday the cartoon did not breach its standards of practice.

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Serena Williams argues with chair umpire at US Open finals
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Serena Williams argues with chair umpire at US Open finals
Sep 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Serena Williams of the United States yells at chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the women's final against Naomi Osaka of Japan on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY SPORTS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sept 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Serena Williams of the USA argues with tournament referee Brian Earley while playing Naomi Osaka of Japan in the women?s final on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; (L-R) Naomi Osaka of Japan, Serena Williams of the United States, and chair umpire Carlos Ramos talk after Ramos charges Williams with a game penalty in the second set in the women's final on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY SPORTS
Sep 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; (L-R) Naomi Osaka of Japan, chair umpire Carlos Ramos, and Serena Williams of the United States during the women's final on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY SPORTS
Sept 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Serena Williams of the USA argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos (not pictured) while playing Naomi Osaka of Japan in the women?s final on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
2018 US Open Tennis Tournament- Day Thirteen. Serena Williams of the United States argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos during her match against Naomi Osaka of Japan in the Women's Singles Final on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the 2018 US Open Tennis Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8th, 2018 in Flushing, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
2018 US Open Tennis Tournament- Day Thirteen. Serena Williams of the United States argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos after receiving a one game penalty during her match against Naomi Osaka of Japan in the Women's Singles Final on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the 2018 US Open Tennis Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8th, 2018 in Flushing, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
2018 US Open Tennis Tournament- Day Thirteen. Serena Williams of the United States argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos after receiving a one game penalty during her match against Naomi Osaka of Japan in the Women's Singles Final on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the 2018 US Open Tennis Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8th, 2018 in Flushing, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
USTA BILLIE JEAN KING NATIONAL T, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2018/09/08: Serena Williams of USA reacts after receiving code violation during women's single final of US Open against Naomi Osaka of Japan at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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"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'," the council said, using an Australian phrase for a child having a temper tantrum.

The image was "a non-racist caricature familiar to most Australian readers," the council said in a statement.

The newspaper said the cartoon was intended as a lampoon of the tennis star's angry exchanges with chair umpire Carlos Ramos at the U.S. Women's Singles final in New York.

Williams clashed with Ramos over penalties she thought she did not deserve and ultimately lost to Naomi Osaka.

The U.S.-based National Association of Black Journalists said at the time the cartoon was "repugnant on many levels" and "not only exudes racist, sexist caricatures of both women, but Williams' depiction is unnecessarily sambo-like."

"Sambo," a derogatory term for a black person, is the name of a folkloric figure usually depicted with an exaggerated mouth and an ape-like stance.

The Council acknowledged that some readers found the cartoon offensive.

"However ... there was a sufficient public interest in commenting on behavior and sportsmanship during a significant dispute between a tennis player with a globally high profile and an umpire at the U.S. Open final," it said. (Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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