Serena Williams attempted to distance herself on Wednesday from a furore created by remarks in which she appeared to at least partially blame the victim of Ohio's Steubenville high school football rape case for the attack.
In a Rolling Stone interview published online on Tuesday,
the women's tennis world No 1 said that while she did not blame the victim in the case, "she shouldn't have put herself in that position".
Rolling Stone also quoted Williams as saying: "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 … she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."
In a statement released on Wednesday, Williams appeared to claim she was misquoted. "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 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."
However, she did not directly claim that she was misquoted, instead attempting to draw attention to her previous positions on women's rights.
In March, two players from the high school football team were convicted of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl. One of the players was given an extra year in jail, for photographing the girl naked. The case attracted attention from the national press.