A former sports reporter has filed a lawsuit in which she accuses new Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton of sexually assaulting her when he was an assistant with the Golden State Warriors.
Kelli Tennant, who worked for Spectrum SportsNet in Los Angeles, filed the lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that the incident occurred at the Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica, Calif. At a news conference held at her lawyer’s office Tuesday, Tennant said the incident occurred in 2014, coinciding with Walton’s tenure as a Warriors assistant from 2014 to 2016. The lawsuit was first reported by TMZ.
Tennant, a former college volleyball standout at USC, said that she has known Walton and his wife for 10 years through their shared time in local volleyball circles. After Tennant was hired as a sports reporter by Spectrum SportsNet in 2013, she briefly worked with Walton, who was an analyst for the network, which was then known as Time Warner. Walton became a professional mentor to her, and she asked him to write the foreword for a book she was writing on athletes transitioning away from professional sports upon their retirement.
Tennant said she drove to Walton’s hotel during a Warriors road trip to provide him with a copy of the book as a sign of her gratitude for his contribution. When she arrived at the hotel, he instructed her to come inside and follow him to his room because “he didn’t want to be seen in the lobby with the players.” While she was hesitant at first, she said she had trusted Walton and he had reassured her that she shouldn’t worry.
Upon accepting his invitation to come to his room, she alleged that Walton assaulted her.
“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. “He kissed my neck, my face and my chest. As I kept asking him to please stop and get off, he laughed at me. I continued to ask him to stop over and over again without any use of my arms. I could feel him rubbing his erection on me. He continued to laugh at all of my pleas to get off and to stop. I thought he was going to rape me.”
Walton denied the accusation through his attorney.
“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” Mark Baute said in a statement to the Sacramento Bee. “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
In a brief statement to the Bee, the Kings said they “are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time.” The NBA is also investigating, according to ESPN. A league spokesman told the Athletic that the league is “coordinating with the Kings organization” and “in the process of gathering more information.”
“At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers,” the team said. “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.”
The Warriors were similarly unaware, they said.
“We became aware of the alleged incident and story [late Monday] evening and are in the process of seeking more information,” their statement said. “We’ll have no further comment at this time.”
Tennant’s book, “The Transition: Every Athlete’s Guide to Life after Sports,” was published in 2014. Walton played for the Lakers from 2003 to 2012. After he retired from playing, he did some broadcast work, at times appearing with Tennant on Spectrum SportsNet, which carries Lakers games. He then became an assistant coach with Golden State and was head coach of the Lakers until he and the team parted ways this month. He was quickly named coach of the Kings.