Serena Williams said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that, while not blaming the victim in the Steubenville rape case, "she shouldn't have put herself in that position."
Her comments are made in one paragraph of a lengthy Rolling Stone piece 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 celebrated 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.
According to the Rolling Stone piece, she remarked to the reporter about the Steubenville case after seeing a news report about it on television that the perpetrators of the crime "did something stupid," and asked: "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."
And Williams is also quoted 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, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."
Serena's controversial comments quickly set off a social media outcry Tuesday, with a firestorm of sharp criticism stirred up on social networks like Twitter and Facebook that her stance was inappropriate, according to USA Today.
Williams is in England preparing for Wimbledon.
Her agent, who also is in England, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.