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Serena Williams says she apologized to Maria Sharapova, Steubenville victim

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Serena Williams

Serena Williams is the defending champion at Wimbledon. (Jon Buckle/Getty Images)

WIMBLEDON, England — Serena Williams took full responsibility Sunday for her controversial remarks about a highly publicized rape case and revealed that she apologized to Maria Sharapova for comments that were presumed to be a swipe at her love life.

In a recent Rolling Stone article, author Stephen Rodrick was with Williams at a nail salon when she saw news of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case.

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.”

Rodrick was also alongside Williams while she was on the phone with sister Venus gossiping about another player, whom Rodrick believes to be Sharapova.

After chattering about their dad, they move on to gossip. As usual, Serena does most of the talking.

“There are people who live, breathe and dress tennis. I mean, seriously, give it a rest.” Serena exits the car and the conversation moves on to a top-five player who is now in love. “She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ – it’s so boring,” says Serena in a loud voice. “She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.” (An educated guess is she’s talking about Sharapova, who is now dating Grigor Dimitrov, one of Serena’s rumored exes.)

The fallout from the article has been swift. A day after Deadspin published her comments about the Steubenville rape victim, Serena apologized in a statement and reached out to the family.

“I apologize for everything that was said in that article,” a composed and polished Williams said at her pre-Wimbledon news conference Sunday. “I feel like you say things without having all the information. It’s really important before you make certain comments to have a full list, have all the information, all the facts. I reached out to the family [of the Steubenville rape victim] immediately once the article came out, and I had a really productive, sincere conversation with the mother and the daughter. We came to a wonderful understanding, and we’re constantly in contact.”

Williams also said she apologized to Sharapova at Thursday’s WTA Wimbledon party.

“I made it a point to reach out to Maria, as well, because she was inadvertently brought into the situation by assumptions made by the reporter,” Williams said. “I said, ‘Look, I want to personally apologize to you if you are offended by being brought into my situation. I want to take this moment to just pour myself, be open, say I’m very sorry for this whole situation.’

“I have the most respect for Maria on and off the court. That’s another reason why, being a woman, I wanted to reach out to her and say, ‘Look, this is this, this is this, sorry.’”

Here’s video of Serena’s comments, courtesy of ESPN.

Williams said she believes Sharapova accepted her apology, but the Russian’s comments at a news conference Saturday suggest otherwise. Sharapova said Williams should be more concerned about her own personal life rather than her colleagues’.

“If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids,” Sharapova said, referring to Serena’s unconfirmed relationship with her coach/consultant Patrick Mouratoglou. “Talk about other things, but not draw attention to other things. She has so much in her life, many positives, and I think that’s what it should be about.”

Aware of Sharapova’s comments, Serena declined to comment on the status of her personal life or whether she’s angry that Sharapova brought it up.

“I’m not really going comment on that, whether I’m disturbed or not,” Williams said. “I know she also said that I should definitely focus on the tennis here, and I feel like that is another thing I can definitely take her advice on. Maybe I wasn’t focused enough in the past on tennis. I’m definitely going to try to focus on that for the next two weeks.”

As for the article itself, Williams said “it is what it is” and that she should have known better than to be so flippant with her comments.

“I feel like what happened, if you read the interview, I was involved in a private conversation that he even wrote in the article that he said he was listening to,” Williams said of Rodrick, who doesn’t cover tennis regularly. “I take full blame and responsibility for that because I’ve been in the business for years and years and I should always in a way have my guard up.

“I’ve been spoiled dealing with professionalism here in the tennis world,” she said. “I’m used to dealing with these people not writing or commenting on a private conversation that I may have or kind of listening in or eavesdropping and then reporting on it. You guys have completely spoiled me.”

Williams beat Sharapova for the French Open title two weeks ago, and the two could meet in the Wimbledon final.  Serena, the defending Wimbledon champion, has won 13 consecutive matches against Sharapova in a streak that began in 2005. Williams said she would look forward to facing Sharapova at the All England Club.

“I think Maria and I have great matches,” Williams said. “I think it’s great for women’s tennis when we play each other.  The same when Venus and I play each other, or me and Victoria [Azarenka]. When we’re in the final, it’s a really, really good matchup. I think we both have so much intensity on the court, and we just really love the game.”

  • Published On Jun 23, 2013
  • 76 comments
    femmefatale.atlanta
    femmefatale.atlanta

    Good sportsmanship and tact, especially when you're in the public eye. That's all I'm saying.

    femmefatale.atlanta
    femmefatale.atlanta

    Serena, please take that Cousin It wig and go sit in the corner somewhere. All of that testosterone is making you reckless.

    metalhead65
    metalhead65

    what is really sad is that a person can't say anything today without the pc police having to approve it or we must have a an apology that they obviously do not mean the very next day. I thought we had free speech in this country not politically correct free speech. you are entitled not to like what someone says but that does not mean they have apologize for saying it or go to re-education..er sensitivity training for saying it.  

    Chris8
    Chris8

    How man bridges has Stephen Rodrick burned before even crossing them.  If I were an athlete or in anyway famous I don't think I'd ever do an interview like this.  You know these guys are just waiting to jump on anything you say that might possibly be the least bit controversial.  Frankly I don't have a problem with what Serena said even though I don't agree with it.

    But these guys who do these interviews, they're just damned vultures and I think it makes them pretty untrustworthy.

    raja.govindarajan
    raja.govindarajan

    Serena is absolutely allowed to talk about whatever she wants to her sister on the phone. It is a freaking private family conversation. Let us all try to remember what all we have said in the comforts of our living room, or among friends, or on the phone, or in a bar. Roddick relayed/confirmed to the media what she was talking about - what a freaking loser!!!!  But at the end of it all I feel sorry for Maria. Next time she meets Serena on the court, she is going to face some aggressive tennis......like she has faced the past 13 times :-) 

    Hola
    Hola

    Serena let her guard down.  She shouldn't do that again.

    Hotbite
    Hotbite

    "I apologize if you are offended..." 

    Don't you just love those 'apologies'?

    Butters08
    Butters08

    Ultimately Serena will go down in history as an underachiever, a great athlete, who consistently showed no class or professionalism to her fellow players and also lacked the focus and consistency to be the greatest female tennis player of all time.  Her physical dominance was never fully matched by championship character.

    David G
    David G

    Caring about what an athlete, amateur or professional, or any actor says shows how gullible the media and people all over the world have become.  The first grouping play games, the second pretend. 

    RPH
    RPH

    I fail to understand why we as a society constantly put microphones in front of the mouths of professional athletes.  Just because a person can run fast or jump high does not mean that they have any semblance of intelligence or anything worthwhile to say.  

    gopdogg
    gopdogg

    Ultimately, none if this should be too surprising.  Serena has never been a model of professionalism and sportsmanship - you know, the cornerstones of professional sports.

    layla
    layla

    The damage is already done, the apology means nothing when it's not real

    and only about self image

    Pukovnik
    Pukovnik

    Hm.....I don't think Serena should apologize for comments about the rape case. She has a point. The guys who did what they did should be castrated if you ask me, but the girl, she is 16 years old and drunk, you simply do not get in these kinds of situations, you need to be careful because this world can be a dark place.

    Jasonbv76
    Jasonbv76

    She's classless, probably and steroids, and likely psycho.

    MarkJosephson
    MarkJosephson

    Proving yet again, steroids make your brain say stupid things.

    Optional Donation
    Optional Donation

    Gossip = Garbage Journalism. Why would anyone care about a cellphone conversation?  

    atthebarbershop
    atthebarbershop

    Serena is the best ever American tennis player. She has won more Grand Slam titles than any other American. What she said about the rape victim was not phrased the right way. The girl deserved to have a hangover, and get punished by her parents. She did not deserved to be raped. The victim, however, did put herself in a vunerable position. She, and any other person, has a right not to be assaulted, but that doesn't mean, particularly if you put yourself in a vunerable position, you won't be.  You can't leave the door open to your home, and have the same certainty you won't be robbed, as if you'd locked your door. Serena shouldn't have said anything, but if she felt compelled she should have asked young women to always be on guard for men just waiting for a chance to take advantage of a situation. One way to do that, is not to drink, or not to drink too much at parties and always make sure your friends are there to help. Instead, it SOUNDED like Serena was blaming the girl.

    Scottakruh
    Scottakruh

    @raja.govindarajan It's not football...she can hit the ball as hard as she wants but it doesn't hurt...serena is the best player, no doubt, but her image is one of a disturbed and angry homewrecker..and all the overhead slams in the word won't change that

    Galileo
    Galileo

    @Butters08 

    This piece you put up here smirks of hate and has neither class nor character. Have you ever achieved anything as a person beyond High School? If you ever achieved anything in your life or understand what it means, you will show some respect to Serena.

    pcwhite2
    pcwhite2

    @Butters08 

    LMAO - you are a pure idiot.  She is ALREADY considered in the running with Graft and Navratilova as the greatest ever.  She may catch Graft for most Grand Slams in the modern era.

    Regarding her character, only the haters - such as yourself - see her as lacking.  Serena as born the lunacy of her critics with grace and style.  Please sit down.

    DW1972
    DW1972

    @Butters08 Someone probably said the same of John McEnroe! Underachiever? Are you serious?!!! "Consistency to be the greatest of all time?" For example??? Who has shown the consistency you speak of with the success she has? I'm talking contemporaries...I'm waiting! No class and professionalism? We all have meltdowns and act out at some point or another...we're humas! At the end of the day, we also have regrets so we all make mistakes....but to discredit what she has accomplished and done for women's tennis...dude, please! Y'all can't control her and that's what you don't like! She doesn't owe anyone anything and y'all hate it! Hate not being the story behind her success. Class is winning the French Open as an American and addressing the crowd in French, a crowd who has consistently rooted against her since the beginning because of skin color! That's class buddy!!

    jessjessmcdonald
    jessjessmcdonald

    Agreed! .....respect is gained by grace, of which she has none of...

    ThomasCox
    ThomasCox

    @RPH neither do 75% of the people that post their opinions here and on other forums, yet they still get the ability to do so.  The people that are blaming the victim here.  Do they not get the same chance to voice their opinion (very misguided as it is) as the people who believe justly and correctly that the victim is not to blame?  Or should they have to take a test to see if they are sentient enough to realize that they are just stupid, and thus, not get the right to post?  And if that is the case, why don't we just abolish the media, social media, and the internet altogether.  My point being as long as there is a forum to get one's point of view out, there will always be some idiot to make a fool of him or herself. 

    EasyGoer
    EasyGoer

    @gopdogg The cornerstones of professional sports is wins and championships. Don't let your dislike of someone cloud logical thinking. The first guy/girl knocked out of the tournament may be the most professional one out there but you will never remember his/her name and he/she won't be asked their opinion on very many things..

    Hola
    Hola

    @Pukovnik I agree.  The 16 year old should have never been drunk and put herself in a bad situation.  Ultimately, the guys should have known better, but the girl deserves some of the blame.

    Hola
    Hola

    @Jasonbv76 "Probably"..."likely"  you must be a reporter.

    Hola
    Hola

    @MarkJosephson If you are implying that Serena is on steroids, you should be able to defend the statement.  Please defend it.  What's the evidence?

    tfaw
    tfaw

    @atthebarbershop you are an idiot.  she said what she said and anyone with a pulse can figure it out.

    hope your kids get drunk and get raped, then lets see where this goes.

    pcwhite2
    pcwhite2

    @Scottakruh @raja.govindarajan 

    Please, Scottakruh.  That "image" of Serena exists only in your jealous mind.  

    Raja is correct: Serena, ever the professional, subtly let Sharapova know if they meet at Wimbledon, Serena is going to (again) destroy her.

    Butters08
    Butters08

    @pcwhite2 @Butters08 

    Apparently your opinion of what constitutes as sportsmanship and character are different than mine.  Personal attacks aside, you obviously think Serena walks on water and is above criticism.  Good for you.

    RPH
    RPH

    @Hola @Pukovnik

    Actually, she "deserves" none of the blame.  Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted, even if they are drunk, no matter how they are dressed.  Would you be whistling the same tune if this happened to your daughter?  Just because she was drunk does not mean these guys had to do this or makes their actions justifiable.  

    atthebarbershop
    atthebarbershop

    @tfaw @atthebarbershop you're taking this way to personal. You hope my kids get raped? Wow! Do you walk down the street holding your money in your hand. Do you leave the door to your home unlocked when you leave? You don't deserved to get robbed. But if you did do that, you just made it easier for someone to take advantage of you. It's not your fault. But by locking your door, and putting your money in your pocket you put up a layer of protection. The girl didn't deserved to get raped. But in this world there are things we can all do to make it harder for a criminal to committ crime. 

    pcwhite2
    pcwhite2

    @Butters08 @pcwhite2

    Butters: "Apparently your opinion of what constitutes as sportsmanship and character are different than mine." 

    The difference is that I actually know what "sportsmanship" and "character" mean . . . .

    Galileo
    Galileo

    @EasyGoer @Hola @RPH @Pukovnik 

    Can't agree less. They boys acted stupid. However, a system that labels those victims as semi-outcasts for life is as stupid too. I told my pastor a few days ago that when you commit a sin and repent God forgives you but people and the society inclusive of our pastors never forget nor forgive.

    EasyGoer
    EasyGoer

    @Hola @RPH @Pukovnik No, it means your daughter is human and made a mistake and two bad people used it to take advantage of her. I was in those two boys' position a few years ago. I went drinking with a friend and his prospective girlfriend. She bragged about how strong a drinker she was and within two hours she was passed out, zipper half way down from not being able to zip up when exiting the bathroom. We had to help her out of the bar and into a cab. On the way out, a guy who I didn't even know asked if we knew her and said we should "run a train on her." I said he should get lost because that isn't happening. My friend took her to his house and he didn't even want to touch her for fear of being accused of something. He just poured her into the bed and let her sleep it off. She didn't even realize what a vulnerable position her bad judgment had put her in. Maybe she knew she was in good hands. I don't know what she was thinking but when I saw her later, we just laughed it off. I don't know if she's ever done that again but I hope not. There is no one to blame in the Steubenville case but the two boys. They knew what the right thing to do was but they didn't do it.

    Hola
    Hola

    @RPH @Hola @Pukovnik I would hope that I have taught my daughter enough that at 16 she would not become so drunk that she passes out.  If not, it means that I have failed as a parent.

    tfaw
    tfaw

    @pcwhite2 @tfaw @Hola @MarkJosephson that is so incorrect.  sure, the man can hit a little green ball around pretty well, but i add a lot more value to the world than she will ever do.  

    tfaw
    tfaw

    @Hola @tfaw @MarkJosephson you highly underestimate yourself.  unless she is the missing link, and i will allow for that possibility, 95% of the people will conclude this is steroids.  no different than barry bonds before and after.

    Hola
    Hola

    @tfaw @Hola @MarkJosephson Unfortunately, I don't have the skill set to look at millions of pictures to determine if a person is on steroids.  I just don't have that particular skill.

    atthebarbershop
    atthebarbershop

    @tfaw @pcwhite2 @atthebarbershop its now painfully obvious you were singling out "black thugs" in your tirade. Please take sometime to reconsider your racially tainted opinions before sharing them here. You just might regret them someday.

    tfaw
    tfaw

    @atthebarbershop @tfaw because your logic is so flawed and passive that it requires a direct response.  the term is called reality.  

    atthebarbershop
    atthebarbershop

    @tfaw @atthebarbershop I'm passive/aggressive? Well, you're an enabler! LOL. Therapy is just advice, you don't have to live by what you hear when you're there. BTW, weren't you the one who wrote that you wish my kids get raped? What's the theraputic term for that?

    pcwhite2
    pcwhite2

    @tfaw @Optional Donation @atthebarbershop 

    Yes, Kobe IS innocent.  His "victim" was a mentally ill person who went and screwed at least one, possibly three other guys after she was allegedly "raped."  Kobe stupidly picked the wrong person to screw around with and paid the price.

    I spoke to my children about the Steubenville girl.  I said the boys were terribly wrong, but the girl put herself in a vulnerable position.  The girl did not "deserve" to be raped, but she was wrong for being drunk and not being in control.  Safety first.

    atthebarbershop
    atthebarbershop

    @tfaw @Optional Donation @atthebarbershop i said in my original post that its not the victims fault. She deserved to have a hangover and to get in trouble at home, not raped. Kobe was not innocent because his case was never adjucdicated. Kobe never committed a crime. Calm down, take a deep breath, then soberly consider the opinions people make here. 

    Optional Donation
    Optional Donation

    I'm  not blaming the victim. at all You must be referring to tfaw's juvenile comment. Right?

    ... and Kobe the Rapist will always carry his guilt to the grave.

    tfaw
    tfaw

    @Optional Donation @tfaw @atthebarbershop never would happen.  your attempt to blame the victim is senseless and indicates inferior thinking at a minimum.  i'm sure you also think Kobe is innocent as well.  crime is crime.