Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton accused of sexual assault

"I thought he was going to rape me," a sports reporter said about an alleged encounter with Walton at a hotel.

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By Tim Stelloh, Diana Dasrath and Andrew Blankstein

Luke Walton is being sued by a sports reporter who says the NBA coach sexually assaulted her, according to a court document filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The suit, which was first reported by TMZ, alleges that Walton groped and forcibly kissed the reporter, Kelli Tennant, in a Santa Monica hotel room on an unspecified date.

The Sacramento Kings coach, a former Los Angeles Lakers forward who won two championships with the team, previously served as assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors and head coach with the Lakers beginning in 2016.

Though the suit does not specify the date of the alleged assault, it indicates it happened while Walton was an assistant coach for the Warriors, a position he took beginning in the 2014-2015 season.

He was named the Kings new coach April 14.

Mark Baute, Walton's lawyer, said on Tuesday that Tennant's claim is "baseless."

"The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom," Baute said in a statement.

The Kings said it was aware of the accusations.

"We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time," the team said Monday night.

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The Lakers said the alleged incident occurred before Walton was the team's coach.

"At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers," a statement from the team said. "If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA."

The lawsuit alleges that Walton pinned Tennant — a former host of SportsNet LA — on the bed of his hotel room after she dropped off a book she'd written for student-athletes. Walton, who Tennant had known for years and considered a "trusted mentor and colleague," had written the book's forward, according to the complaint, which claims sexual assault and battery.

Walton allegedly groped, forcefully kissed and held down Tennant, the complaint alleges.

"Terrified, Ms. Tennant immediately yelled 'Stop it,' and tried to free herself," the document says.

Tennant said Tuesday at a news conference with her lawyers that she was no longer comfortable staying silent.

"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," Tennant said. "He kissed my neck and my face and chest. And as I asked him to please stop and get off, he laughed at me."

Walton allegedly continued to kiss her while she was pinned, Tennant said.

"And he continued to laugh at all of my pleas to get off and to stop," she said. "I thought he was going to rape me."

Tennant told "certain people" about the alleged assault, the suit states, but did not publicly report it because of her role as a sports broadcaster who covered the Lakers.

She said Tuesday that she was grateful that Walton was not based in Los Angeles, but that changed in 2016 after he was hired onto the Lakers.

Tennant said that Walton continued to make her uncomfortable at events where they were both attendees, including one for a charity she was on the board of.

"I had to moderate a panel with him and talk about how amazing he was for an hour," Tennant said. "And it literally killed me inside."

The suit was filed Monday but there is no indication of whether it has yet been served. It does not specify damages.

"By this lawsuit, Ms. Tennant speaks up and says #timesup to the culture of abuse women in the NBA that is demonstrated" by Walton, the suit says.