Kelli Tennant Details Alleged Luke Walton Sexual Assault, Timing for Filing Suit

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2019

FILE - In this March 31, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans. The Sacramento Kings have hired Luke Walton as their coach just days after he parted ways with the Los Angeles Lakers following three losing seasons. The Kings announced Monday, April 15, 2019, that Walton will replace Dave Joerger. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman, File)
Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

Kelli Tennant and her attorney, Garo Mardirossian, held a press conference Tuesday to address the sexual assault allegation she levied against new Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton in a lawsuit. 

"I thought he was going to rape me," she told reporters.

Tennant said the assault occurred when Walton was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors—which he was from 2014 through 2016—and Tennant was asked why she didn't come forward sooner. She said she was scared and pointed to the power dynamic at play:

Richard Winton @LAcrimes

Kelli Tennant says she waited to go public with sexual assault allegation against #LukeWalton because she feared him and it took her time "to be able to muster up the courage." She says she never confronted Walton

Sean Cunningham @SeanCunningham

After detailing her alleged incident with Luke Walton, accuser Kelli Tennant says she was scared to come forward sooner with her story. Says she "hoped to push it aside and bury it"

Richard Winton @LAcrimes

Kelli Tennant's attorney said, "she told her immediate family" of the allegations #LukeWalton sexual assaulted her.

Tennant added "no women should ever be made to feel like a victim" and said she hopes Walton learned a lesson:

Andrew Luria @AndrewLuria

@fox5sandiego Kelli Tennant re: Luke Walton... "Every interaction with him that I had with him at that time made me feel incredibly uncomfortable & feel unsafe. This type of behavior cannot be condoned. . . [I'm] hoping that he learns a lesson and knows that he can never do this again." https://t.co/bJujo6aIY0

Mardirossian released a statement prior to Tuesday's press conference, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

"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 a 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."

He also addressed why they didn't file a police report:

Richard Winton @LAcrimes

Kelli Tennant attorney on why they didn't file a police report on #LukeWalton "Our interest isn't to Mr. Walton in jail," said Kelli Tennant's attorney. "It is about Kelli feeling better about herself."

Walton's attorney, Mark Baute, called the allegations "baseless" and Tennant "an opportunist, not a victim," per Sam Amick of The Athletic.

According to Amick, a spokesperson from the Los Angeles Superior Court said the sexual assault lawsuit against Walton was officially filed as of Tuesday afternoon.

TMZ Sports initially reported the allegations on Monday, citing the details of the lawsuit. In the suit, Tennant said Walton "suddenly pinned her to the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body" and "began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest."

He also "held her down, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg," per TMZ.

The two had a prior relationship from when Tennant worked as a reporter for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA, and she asked him to contribute to her book, which was the reason Tennant said they were meeting when the assault occurred.

Tennant went on to say in the suit that Walton made "unwanted" advances with physical conduct such as hugs or a kiss when they interacted after the assault she described and even issued "vulgar, guttural sounds at her" and said "you're killing me in that dress" in 2017 when he was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information," the Kings told TMZ. "We have no further comment at this time."

Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reported the Kings and general manager Vlade Divac were unaware of the allegations when they hired Walton as the head coach. Anderson also cited NBA spokesperson Mike Bass, who said the league is investigating the allegations with the Kings.

"This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers," the Lakers said in a statement. "At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers. 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."

Walton was the head coach of the Lakers for three seasons and finished with a 98-148 record, missing the playoffs all three times. Los Angeles was a mere 37-45 in 2018-19 even after signing LeBron James and mutually parted ways with him on April 12.

The Kings hired him shortly thereafter following the firing of head coach Dave Joerger.

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