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A former sports reporter who’s suing NBA coach Luke Walton for sexual assault detailed her allegations in a press conference this week, claiming she once feared Walton would rape her.
Kelli Tennant claimed in a lawsuit Monday that Walton engaged in a “pattern of mistreatment” toward her, including on one specific occasion where Walton allegedly pinned her to a bed and sexually assaulted her in a hotel room. With her attorneys by her side, Tennant detailed that alleged encounter, as well as others, during a press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, NBC Sports reports.
Tennant previously said in her lawsuit that she met Walton at a California hotel on that particular occasion in order to give him a copy of her book, for which he wrote the foreword. But Tennant explained during the press conference how things allegedly took a turn for the physical after he invited her back to his hotel room.
“Out of nowhere, he got on top of me and pinned me down to the bed and held my arms down with all of his weight,” she said, according to the outlet. “He kissed my neck and my face and my chest. As I kept asking him to please stop and get off, he laughed at me.”
She said then that she continued to plead with Walton to stop, as he restricted the use of her arms, the New York Post reports.
“I could feel him rubbing his erection on me, and he continued to laugh at all of my pleas to get off and to stop,” she said. “I thought he was going to rape me.”
Tennant claimed that, later, Walton assaulted her again a second time, grabbing her from behind and kissing her on the neck, according to NBC Sports.
She said Walton, now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors at the time of the alleged 2014 incident. After the hotel room encounter, he joined the Lakers in 2016, and Tennant continued to be exposed to him on a regular basis, during which time she alleged he was routinely inappropriate, NBC Sports reports.
“Every interaction with him that I had over that time made me incredibly uncomfortable and feel unsafe,” she said.
She alleged she last interacted with Walton during a charity event in 2017, and said he leered at her and gave her an unwanted hug, as she explained in her suit. She left her job at Spectrum SportsNet shortly afterward.
During Tuesday’s conference, Tennant explained why she did not go to police and did not tell anyone aside from her immediate family and others she trusted.
“I was scared,” Tennant said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “When someone assaults you and you think you’re going to be raped, coming forward is a scary thing. I have spent years now dealing with it, trying to forget about it, hoping that I can push it to the side and hoping that time would heal. And that was not the case.”
“Over this time, I was able to muster up the courage and have conversations with Garo where I felt comfortable talking about this,” she continued, referencing one of her attorneys, Garo Mardirossian.
Mardirossian said that they would consider involving law enforcement, but stated that their interest is “not to have Mr. Walton put in jail or to be investigated by police, necessarily,” according to the Times.
“Our interest was for Kelli to feel better about herself, to come out and talk about what happened to her,” Mardirossian said.
Walton’s attorney Mark Baute did not respond to the Times’ request for comment, but previously denied the allegations on his client’s behalf.
“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” Baute told the Times on Monday. “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
Both the Sacramento Kings and the Golden State Warriors have released statements confirming that they are aware of the situation and are actively looking into it, while the Los Angeles Lakers confirmed in a release that they were unaware of the alleged incident before hiring Walton.
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