The NBA and the Sacramento Kings have concluded their joint investigation into allegations of sexual assault made against Kings coach Luke Walton by former sports reporter Kelli Tennant, finding there was “not a sufficient basis to support the allegations.”
Tennant, who was a reporter for Spectrum SportsNet LA, filed a lawsuit in April against Walton, saying he sexually assaulted her after inviting her into his hotel room in Santa Monica, California, in 2014. Walton, a former NBA player, was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors at the time.
The NBA and the Kings announced their joint investigation two days later, with an investigatory team led by the Sacramento law firm Van Dermyden Maddux and the NBA’s assistant general counsel, Elizabeth Maringer.
More than 20 people were interviewed, including Walton, and the investigation was considered closed as of Friday. Tennant declined to participate in the investigation, according to representatives of the Kings.
“Ms. Tennant elected not to participate in the investigation. Based on this and the available evidence, the investigators determined that there was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations made against Coach Walton,” the Kings said in a release.
Tennant’s attorney, Giro Mandirossian, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tennant, who was a volleyball player and coach before she began working in sports broadcasting, said at a news conference in April that she was “no longer comfortable staying silent” about the alleged assault.
She said she had known Walton for years and considered him “a mentor and a friend.” They met at a volleyball tournament years prior, and Walton had done some work as an analyst for sports coverage at Time Warner, where Tennant worked. Walton also wrote the foreword to Tennant’s book, “The Transition: Every Athlete’s Guide to Life After Sports.”
After the book came out, Tennant said, Walton invited her to his room at the Casa del Mar hotel, where she could give him a copy of the book. Walton attacked her, she said, when she got inside.
“Out of nowhere, he got on top of me,” she said. “When I asked him to please stop and get off, he laughed at me.”
Tennant said Walton “rubbed his erection” on her as he held her arms down. “I thought he was going to rape me,” she said.
Over the ensuing years, Tennant had to interact with Walton as part of her job. She said he would regularly hug her, kiss her on the cheek and make sexually explicit comments.
Walton has denied the allegations.
In a statement to HuffPost on Friday, the Kings said: “Luke Walton is our head coach and we support him and his team as they continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”
Walton declined to comment on the investigation directly but said in a statement that he is “100% focused on coaching the Sacramento Kings, and energized to work with this incredible group of players and coaches as we start the preseason.”