NBA coach Luke Walton has been accused in a new lawsuit of sexually assaulting a female sports reporter in a California hotel room and indulging in a “pattern of mistreatment.”
Kelli Tennant, a former SportsNet host, alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday that Walton held her down and sexually assaulted her at the Casa del Mar hotel in Santa Monica, California on an unspecified date, the Los Angeles Times reports.
She also alleges that Walton behaved similarly inappropriately at a charity event on May 24, 2017, when he made inappropriate noises before giving her an unwanted hug, pointing to the occasion as an example of a “pattern of mistreatment” that she says Walton regularly engaged in. She left Spectrum SportsNet shortly after that incident, ending her career, the publication reports.
Tennant said that she’d known Walton for years because both she and his wife were competitive volleyball players in college, according to the Times. She met Walton on the day of the alleged hotel incident to give him a copy of her book, but when they were alone in his room, he “pinned Ms. Tennant on the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body,” before he began “forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest,” the suit reads. Tennant alleges that Walton continued to forcibly touch her breasts and groin as she fought him and shouted for him to stop, which he eventually did.
However, Tennant claims that Walton again grabbed her as she was on her way out of the room, pressing his body against hers; he then released her and began behaving normally again, telling her, “Good to see you,” as she left, according to TMZ.
While the exact date of the alleged assault is unclear, Tennant specified that it occurred when Walton was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors and after he wrote a foreword for her book, which was published in 2014, the Times reports.
Tennant’s attorney Garo Mardirossian did not specify to the Times whether his client reported the alleged assault to police.
Mark Baute, Walton’s attorney, defended him in a brief statement, claiming that Tennant’s story lacks credibility, according to the Times.
“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” Baute said. “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
Walton was the head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers for a number of years before parting ways with the team earlier this month and signing on as head coach for the Sacramento Kings within the same week. The Kings said in a brief statement that they are aware of the allegations concerning Walton and are currently gathering more information on the subject, the Times reports. The Warriors released a similar statement, stating that they are “gathering information” and have no further comments at the present time, according to the paper.
In a press release issued earlier this week, the Lakers stated that the alleged assault took place before Walton was employed with their team.
“At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers,” their statement reads. “If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment.”
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