Serena Williams sorry for saying rape victim ‘shouldn’t have put herself in that position’ (updated)

June 19, 2013

Serena Williams won the French Open on June 8. (Reuters)

Updated at 11:04 a.m. with Williams’s statement

Serena Williams issued a statement saying she is “sorry for what was written” in an article in which she said the 16-year-old Steubenville rape victim “shouldn’t have put herself in that position.”

Williams, in a statement posted on her website this morning, said she was reaching out to the girl’s family:

“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. 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.”

Filed at 8:03 a.m.

Serena Williams arrived in England to begin play in Wimbledon next week with a fresh controversy preceding her.

Williams, in a recent Rolling Stone interview, made comments about a 16-year-old Steubenville, Ohio, rape victim that aren’t going to go away as she pursues her sixth singles title.

In “The Great One,” a wide-ranging profile by Stephen Rodrick, Williams said that the victim put “herself in that position,” although Williams said she was “not blaming the girl.”

Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond, two players from the high school football team, were convicted in March of raping the drunken girl and were sentenced to a year in juvenile detention.

One athlete was sentenced to an additional year for taking photos of the naked victim. The case gained national headlines partly because other students were gossiping about it with videos an text messages.

In the piece, Rodrick writes that:

We watch the news for a while, and the infamous Steubenville rape case flashes on the TV—two high school football players raped a 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.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Williams has what Rodrick calls a “Hannity-like take” on other matters, like the tax rate in France, where she owns an apartment. “Seventy-five percent doesn’t seem legal,” she told him. “Nobody does anything because the government pays you to be broke. So why work?”

Agree or disagree, Serena’s no-­safety-net political philosophy is rooted in her Compton childhood, one where there wasn’t a lot of money and where gun violence claimed her older sister Yetunde in 2003. Today, Serena mother-hens every expenditure. “I’m an athlete and I’m black, and a lot of black athletes go broke. I do not want to become a statistic, so maybe I overcompensate. But I’m paranoid. Oprah told me a long time ago, ‘You sign every check. Never let anyone sign any checks.’ ”

Williams has found herself at the center of controversy before. She half-heartedly apologized for an on-court hissy fit at the 2011 U.S. Open and was criticized for doing a crip walk after winning an Olympic gold medal at the All-England Club last summer. She  is sure to be grilled about the Steubenville comment but seemed unaware of the headlines it was generating as she left the U.S. on Monday.

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren · June 18, 2013