Serena Williams apologized Wednesday for her controversial comments to Rolling Stone about a highly publicized rape case in Steubenville, Ohio.
“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me,” Williams said in a statement released on her website. “I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved — that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written — what I supposedly said — is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.
“I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields — anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.”
In March, two Steubenville High School football players were convicted of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl. One defendant was sentenced to at least one year in juvenile detention and the other received at least two years. In a profile in the July 4 issue of Rolling Stone, Williams questioned the victim’s judgment in allowing herself to be put in such a dangerous situation. From Stephen Rodrick’s story, which came from shadowing Williams for a day in Florida three months ago:
We watch the news for a while, and the infamous Steubenville rape case flashes on the TV – two high school football players raped a drunk 16-year-old, while other students watched and texted details of the crime. Serena just shakes her head. “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
The 16-time Grand Slam champion also talks to the magazine about her career (“When I stop playing, it’s not going to be because I’m sick of playing. It’s going to be because I’m sick of practicing”) and Sloane Stephens (“I don’t know where all that mentor stuff came from. I am definitely not that girl’s mentor”) and takes what the author presumes is a veiled shot at Maria Sharapova (“There are people who live, breathe and dress tennis. I mean seriously, give it a rest.”). But Williams’ Steubenville comments have generated the most attention, sparking a social-media firestorm after Deadspin first published excerpts of the story Tuesday.
Williams is the defending champion at Wimbledon, which begins Monday.