"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," Williams said in a statement released through her agent Wednesday. "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."
The comment was made in one paragraph of a lengthy story posted online Tuesday about Williams, a 16-time Grand Slam title winner who is ranked No. 1 heading into Wimbledon, which starts next week.
Two players from the Steubenville, Ohio, high school football team were convicted in March of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl; one of the boys was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the girl naked. The case gained widespread attention in part because of the callousness with which other students used social media to gossip about it.
"What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened," Williams said in the statement. "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."
According to the Rolling Stone story, Williams says the perpetrators of the crime "did something stupid," and she asks: "Do you think it was fair, what they got?"
She adds, "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."
Williams also is quoted as saying: "... she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."
Williams is in England preparing for Wimbledon.
"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," she said in the statement. "My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child."
WTA CEO Stacey Allaster said the tour had been touch with Williams about the article.
"If she was accurately quoted, then Serena's comments were both insensitive and wrong," Allaster said in a statement. "We disagree with the statements and have made that clear to her."