(CNN) — The NBA and the Sacramento Kings announced a joint investigation into accusations against Kings head coach Luke Walton, days after a former sports reporter filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault.
“The Kings and the NBA take these allegations very seriously,” they said in a statement, “and will collaborate to conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”
Kelli Tennant, a former sports reporter, alleged in her lawsuit that she suffered physical injuries and mental and emotional distress after Walton forced himself on her in a Santa Monica, California, hotel room about five years ago, while Walton was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors.
Walton’s attorney, Mark Baute, previously said the allegations were “baseless,” calling Tennant “an opportunist, not a victim.”
“We intend to prove this in a courtroom,” Baute said in a statement Tuesday.
The NBA and the Kings said in their joint statement that the team had hired two attorneys from a Sacramento law firm to investigate the allegations, while the league said its investigatory team would be led by Elizabeth Maringer, senior vice president and assistant general counsel for the NBA.
Walton laughed while Tennant asked him to stop, lawsuit says
According to the lawsuit, at the time of the alleged assault, Tennant was a reporter, broadcaster and host for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA.
Walton had been a friend and mentor, and Tennant contacted him when he became assistant coach of the Warriors in 2014. She wanted to give him a copy of a book for which she’d asked him to write a foreward.
According to the lawsuit, Tennant said Walton said they needed to go to his hotel room because he didn’t want to be seen in the lobby with his team’s players. She hesitated but went with him to his room, where he pinned her to the bed, kissed her against her will and rubbed his erection against her, the lawsuit alleges.
Walton laughed while Tennant asked him to stop, the lawsuit says.
In the years that followed, Walton made other unwanted advances, the lawsuit said, including when he became a coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and the team was Tennant’s sole assignment.
“In these instances … Walton made implied threats of additional physical assaults and other harm by his continued conduct,” the lawsuit says.