Reporter Kelli Tennant held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to address her lawsuit against Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton, who she says sexually assaulted her in a hotel room in late 2014. Tennant’s account included few new details beyond what was reported Monday night—Walton allegedly invited her to his room at the Casa Del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica under the guise of catching up following the publication of Tennant’s book, and then pinned her to the hotel bed and assaulted her—but included the detail of Walton laughing at her as she pleaded with him to stop.
Tennant says she met Walton ten years ago at a volleyball tournament, and that they began working together in 2013 at Time Warner, when she was covering the Lakers and he was an NBA analyst. She asked and Walton agreed to contribute a foreword to her book, which was published in early to mid 2014. Later that year, when Walton was coaching with the Warriors, Tennant contacted Walton during a Warriors road trip to play the Lakers to arrange an opportunity to give him a copy of the book, as a gift of gratitude for his contribution. Tennant says she showed up to his hotel with the book gift-wrapped, and was met by Walton outside the entrance, where they hugged and she gave him the book. Walton allegedly urged her to park her car nearby and make time to catch up and discuss “how things were going with the book.”
I parked my car across the street and as I walked into the hotel with him I anticipated us walking into the lobby, where we would hang out and catch up. And he started to walk towards the elevators, and I asked him where we were going. He said up to his room. And I asked him why we were going up to his room, and he said because the players on his team were in the lobby and he could not be around them, he didn’t want to be seen in the lobby with the players. So I was hesitant, and he said “don’t worry about it, it’s me.” And as someone that I trusted for a long time, I realized I shouldn’t overthink it, and followed his lead. I walked up to the hotel with him and continued to tell myself not to overthink it and that I could trust him.
Out of nowhere he got on top of me and pinned me down to the bed, and held my arms down with all of his weight while he kissed my neck and my face and my chest. And as I kept asking him to please stop and to get off, he laughed at me. I continued to ask him to stop over and over again, without any use of my arms, because he continued to hold me down. I could feel him rubbing his erection on me, and he continued to laugh at all of my pleas to get off and to stop. I thought he was going to rape me.
Tennant says she was able to get up off the bed and tried to leave the room, but that Walton grabbed her from behind and pinned her arms to her body and continued kissing her. Tennant says she “kept begging him to please let go and to please stop,” and Walton “continued to laugh” in her ear. Tennant says Walton did eventually let her go and she was able to leave the room.
Tennant’s lawyer, Garo Mardirossian, indicated at the end of the presser that Tennant’s lawsuit has now been filed in Los Angeles. KCRA reporter Michelle Dapper has been all over this story, and got her hands on a copy of the suit Monday evening, when it was still marked “unfiled”:
Walton has, of course, lawyered up, hiring prominent attorney Mark Baute. You may remember Baute as the lawyer who defended Derrick Rose in the 2016 civil case in which he was accused of participating in a 2013 gang rape. Baute issued a statement Monday night, describing Tennant as “an opportunist, not a victim,” and calling her accusations “baseless.” Mardirossian, in his statement announcing Tuesday’s press conference, put Walton’s alleged behavior squarely in the context of an NBA “culture that tolerates misogynistic gender bias”:
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 the 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.