Luke Walton's Attorney Calls Kelli Tennant Sexual Assault Allegation 'Baseless'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Sunday, March 31, 2019. The Lakers won 130-102. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

Luke Walton's attorney, Mark Baute, released a statement Tuesday regarding the sexual assault allegations that have been levied against the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Baute said: "Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations. The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom."

Tennant's lawyer, Garo Mardirossian, released a statement on behalf of her client, via ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin

"As alleged in the lawsuit, women connected to the National Basketball Association (NBA) have long had to suffer in silence through the indignities of gender abuse and sexual exploitation at the hands of famous, wealthy and powerful men. Aided by their fame, money and power, and motivated by a culture that tolerates misogynistic gender-bias, too many men in professional basketball inappropriately abuse women. As alleged in the lawsuit, Defendant Luke Walton—a former professional basketball player and former Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers—is one of these men.

As alleged in the lawsuit, Kelli Tennant—a former collegiate athlete and star sports broadcaster, is a woman who has had to tolerate and suffer in silence from the abuse she suffered at the hands of Luke Walton. By way of this lawsuit, Ms. Tennant is speaking out and saying #timesup to the culture of abusing women in the NBA."

TMZ Sports reported Monday that the former Spectrum SportsNet LA host filed a civil lawsuit against Walton, alleging that he "pinned her to the bed" and "began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest" in his hotel room before he was hired as the Lakers head coach in 2016.

Walton and Tennant worked together for Spectrum SportsNet LA before he was hired by the Golden State Warriors as an assistant coach. Tennant alleged that the assault took place while Walton was a member of Golden State's staff.

Tennant said in the suit that she went to meet Walton at his hotel in Santa Monica, California, to give him a book she had published, for which he wrote the foreword. She said Walton then invited her up to his room to "catch up" before suddenly trapping her on the bed.

Tennant said she screamed for Walton to stop but that he "held her down, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg." After letting her go, Walton allegedly then "grabbed her from behind and again forced his body up against hers," before finally allowing her to exit the room.

After Walton was hired as the Lakers head coach, Tennant had to continue interacting with him as part of her job. She alleges that Walton would "impose himself on her with a big hug or a kiss" at times despite her making it clear that his actions were inappropriate.

Tennant alleged that Walton made "vulgar, guttural sounds at her" last May before he forced an "aggressive hug on her and rubbed his body against hers."

Walton and the Lakers parted ways April 12 after he went 98-148 in three seasons and failed to make the playoffs. Despite the signing of LeBron James, L.A. went just 37-45 this season.

The 39-year-old Walton was not unemployed for long, though, as the Kings fired head coach Dave Joerger on the heels of a 39-43 season and replaced him with Walton on April 14.

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