LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A sports reporter submitted court papers today alleging she was sexually assaulted by former Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton when he was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.
In a lawsuit submitted to Los Angeles Superior Court Monday but not yet officially filed, Kelli Tennant said she had been acquainted with Walton and his wife for years, and considered him to be a mentor. When Tennant wrote a book, titled “The Transition: Every Athlete's Guide to Life After Sports,” she consulted with Walton and had him write the foreword.
According to the court papers, Tennant took a copy of the book to Walton at the Casa Del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica, where he was staying, and he asked her to visit with him in his hotel room.
“As she had known defendant Walton for years, trusted him as a mentor and knew him to be a married man with children whose wife she was acquainted with, Ms. Tennant agreed,” according to the court papers.
“... Suddenly and out of nowhere, defendant Walton pinned Ms. Tennant on the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body. Defendant Walton then began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest. Terrified, Ms. Tennant immediately yelled `Stop it,' and tried to free herself. Defendant Walton did not stop.”
Tennant claims in the court papers that Walton groped her breasts and groin area, and that he “laughed at her pleas to stop.”
Eventually, Walton relented and released Tennant, and when he ultimately allowed her to leave his room, he “made the disturbing statement: `Good to see you,”' the court papers state.
It was unclear if Tennant reported the alleged assault to police, but the court document states she “confided in certain people” about what had happened.
The court papers do not give a date of the alleged assault, but state that it occurred while Walton was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, a position he held from 2014-16.
Walton's attorney, Mark Baute, issued a statement denying the allegations.
“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” the statement said. “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom."
According to the documents, Walton continued to act aggressively toward her and in a sexual manner in the ensuing years when the pair were required to interact professionally.
The court papers allege sexual battery, sexual assault, gender violence and assault and battery. The document seeks unspecified damages.
“Plaintiff Kelli Tennant -- a former rising star sports broadcaster --
is a woman who has had to tolerate, endure and suffer in silence from the abuse she suffered at the hands of Defendant Walton. But no longer,” the court papers state.
“By this lawsuit, Ms. Tennant speaks up and says #timesup to the culture of abuse of women in the NBA that is demonstrated by the conduct of Defendant Luke Walton...”
The Lakers announced on April 12 they and Walton “have mutually agreed to part ways” after he posted a 98-148 record in three seasons as coach. He was hired as the Sacramento Kings coach two days later.
“This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers,” the Lakers said in a statement issued Monday night.
“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.”
The Sacramento Kings issued the following statement: “We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time.”
The 6-foot-8-inch Walton played for the Lakers from 2003 through 2012 and was a member of their 2009 and 2010 championship teams. He is a son of Basketball Hall of Fame member Bill Walton.
Tennant worked for the Spectrum SportsNet networks, working on baseball, basketball and soccer telecasts and studio shows for five years through 2017. She was a broadcaster on Amazon Prime's coverage of the Association of Volleyball Professionals beach volleyball tour in 2018.
Tennant now hosts a podcast she describes as “advocating for women to help them heal, grow and elevate their lives.”