Kelli Tennant, the former reporter for the Lakers’ regional broadcast network who has stepped forward to accuse current Sacramento Kings and former Los Angeles Lakers’ coach Luke Walton of sexual assault, stepped in front of the cameras on Tuesday and stated her case.
Tennant has filed a civil suit against Walton and she, along with her attorney, conducted a press conference Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Tennent said the incident happened before Walton was the Lakers’ coach, back in 2016 when he was an assistant with the Golden State Warriors. She explained why it was years before she came forward, as reported by NBC 4 in Los Angeles.
“I was 25 when this first happened. As a young woman who had only been in this job for less than a year, who was incredibly grateful for where I was and had worked incredibly hard to get to that position, I was scared and I felt coming forward would jeopardize every aspect of my life,” she said.
It is not uncommon for sexual assault victims to feel powerless and not come forward for years, particularly in high-profile cases where they know the public nature and the backlash that will follow — regardless of truth — from the accusations.
“I am no longer comfortable staying silent… No woman should ever be made to feel like a victim.”
Tennant also described the alleged incident that she says took place in a Santa Monica hotel room. She said they had a professional relationship and she had met him to discuss him writing the forward to a book she was writing.
“Out of nowhere, he got on top of me and pinned me down to the bed and held my arms down, with all his weight. 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 thought he was going to rape me. I was finally able to get up after what felt like forever. And I immediately jumped up to leave the room, and he came around and grabbed me from behind and again held my arms down so I could not move. And started kissing my neck again. I kept begging him to please let go and to please stop. And he continued to laugh in my ear. He finally let me go, and I got out of the room.”
Walton, through his attorney Mark Baute, has denied these allegations.
“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations. The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
The NBA, Sacramento Kings, and Golden State Warriors all say they are investigating the allegations. Sources say the Kings and league knew nothing about the incident prior to the lawsuit being filed, and there was no record of it being brought to the Santa Monica Police Department.
The Lakers released this comment: “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. 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.”