A sports reporter filed a lawsuit Monday against the Sacramento Kings’ new head coach, Luke Walton, claiming he sexually assaulted her.
Kelli Tennant, who used to work as a reporter for Spectrum Sportsnet LA, alleges that Walton forced himself on her after inviting her into his hotel room in Santa Monica, California. Tennant said the incident happened while Walton was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, before he became the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, according to reports from TMZ and the Los Angeles Times.
The lawsuit reportedly did not give a date for the alleged assault but said it happened after the 2014 publication of Tennant’s book, “The Transition: Every Athlete’s Guide to Life After Sports,” for which Walton wrote a forward, according to the Times. The alleged incident also was prior to Walton becoming the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016, according to reports. Walton was with the Warriors from 2014 to 2016.
Tennant alleges in the lawsuit that Walton invited her up to his room at the Casa Del Mar so she could give him a copy of the book without being in the public eye, according to the Times. She said she and Walton had a years-long professional relationship and that she considered him a mentor, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit stated that when Tennant got to the hotel room, Walton “pinned Ms. Tennant on the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body.” According to the Times, the lawsuit said Walton “began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest.” She told Walton to stop and attempted to break free as Walton groped her, according to the lawsuit, and Walton eventually relented.
“She was afraid she was about to be raped,” the suit stated, according to the Times.
The former reporter’s lawsuit stated that the nature of her job forced her to continue interacting with Walton after the incident, according to TMZ. Walton would greet her with aggressive hugs, despite her letting him know they were unwanted, according to the lawsuit.
Walton’s attorney Mark Baute told CNN Sports that the allegations are “baseless,” and that “we intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
Tennant left Spectrum Sportsnet LA in 2017 and now hosts a podcast. She did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. Her lawyer Garo Mardirossian told the Times that he would not disclose any more information about the allegations until a news conference and would not disclose whether Tennant reported the alleged assault to police.
The Kings told HuffPost in a statement Monday night that they are aware of the TMZ report “and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time.”
The accusation comes days after the Kings hired Walton as their head coach after he and the Lakers parted ways on April 12 after three seasons.
“This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers,” the team said in a statement released Monday night. “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 Golden State Warriors did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass told The Athletic on Tuesday that the organization is “coordinating with the Kings organization” and is “in the process of gathering more information.”
This story has been updated with statements from Walton’s attorney and the NBA.