The Sacramento Kings and the NBA announced Thursday they will conduct a joint investigation into sexual assault allegations against new Kings coach Luke Walton.
FILE PHOTO: Mar 27, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton watches the action against the Utah Jazz in the first half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
“The Kings and the NBA take these allegations very seriously and will collaborate to conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” the statement concludes.
Handling the investigation for the Kings will be Sue Ann Van Dermyden, a founding partner of Sacramento law firm Van Dermyden Maddux, and Jennifer Doughty, a veteran investigator and senior associate attorney of the firm.
The NBA’s investigation will be headed up by Elizabeth Maringer, a senior vice president and assistant general counsel for the league. She previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York for over a decade.
Former sports reporter Kelli Tennant filed a lawsuit against Walton on Monday, claiming she was assaulted by Walton at a Santa Monica hotel. Her attorney said the assault occurred in 2014.
On Wednesday, Walton’s attorney, Mark Baute, disputed Tennant’s allegations.
“These claims are false and Luke’s innocence will be proven in court. Yesterday’s press conference was a poorly staged attempt to portray the accuser as a viable spokesperson for an important movement,” Baute said in a statement. “Her lawyers want to create a public circus to distract from their complete lack of evidence to support their outrageous claims. We will not try this case in the media or pay them a dime.”
The incident allegedly occurred when Walton was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors. Tennant said she stopped by the hotel Walton was staying at to drop off a copy of a book she had written, for which Walton wrote the foreword. Tennant claims Walton wanted to have the conversation in his hotel room.
According to Tennant, things got out of hand quickly after she entered the hotel room.
“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,” Tennant said during a news conference.
According to Tennant, she asked Walton to stop and he laughed at her. Tennant said she thought she was about to get raped but eventually broke free and left the room.
Tennant, 31, said she was afraid to come forward earlier, partly because of Walton’s status as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. She said a large part of her motivation for going public now is her own well-being.
The Santa Monica Police Department told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the 39-year-old Walton is not under investigation.
The Lakers, who dismissed Walton earlier this month, said the team had no knowledge of the allegation prior to Monday.
Tennant is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.
—Field Level Media