Former reporter Kelli Tennant is suing Sacramento Kings head coach and former Los Angeles Lakers player Luke Walton for sexual assault, according to reports.
According to legal documents obtained by TMZ and the LA Times, former Spectrum SportsNet presenter Tennant claims that Walton forced himself on her at a hotel in Santa Monica, CA, while he was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.
She and Walton had reportedly had a business relationship for several years, and she alleges that Walton invited her to come and meet him at the Casa Del Mar Hotel after she had asked him to compose a foreword for a book she was writing.
She says that when she got to the hotel, Walton invited her to come to his room to talk about the book and her request to write the forword.
According to Tennant, when they got to Walton’s hotel room, he unexpectedly used force to pin her to the bed and held her down with his body.
He then allegedly proceeded to forcefully kiss her on the face, neck and chest. Tennant claims that she screamed and struggled to escape, but he continued to pin her down to the bed, while groping her breasts and grinding his crotch against her.
She claims that when he finally let her go, she made for the door but before she could flee he caught up with her, grabbed her from behind and once again pressed his body against her.
She says that when Walton eventually let her go, she opened the door and fled, and as she left she heard him say, “Good to see you.”
According to TMZ, Tennant says she did not report the assault immediately after it happened but she had to interact with him several times afterwards due to her job. She says Walton always greeted her whenever they met with a “big hug or kiss” although she believed she had made him aware that his advances were unwelcome.
She claims there was another incident, in May 2017 and while Walton was head coach of the Lakers, where he subjected her to an unwanted hug and made “vulgar, guttural sounds at her”.
Who is Kelli Tennant?
Tennant is a former host of Spectrum SportsNet, which covers the LA Lakers, LA Galaxy and LA Sparks. She was previously a former USC volleyball player, and according to the court documents knew Walton’s wife — who was also a competitive player at college — through her time playing the sport.
She stopped playing basketball and moved into a career in the media after suffering from fibromyalgia, a long-term condition which leaves sufferers with widespread pain.
As well as Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA, she also worked for several other media outlets including Fox Sports, E! News, and ESPN.
In 2014, she published the book which she had asked Walton to write the foreword for, titled The Transition: Every Athlete’s Guide to Life After Sports.
She was previously engaged to former former UCLA football player and fitness model Nick Ekbatani, however they split after he lost his left leg in a motorcycle crash and caring for him took a toll on their relationship.
Tennant is now a life and wellness coach, using the tagline “modern healing, ancient wisdom”. She is the host of the Ceremony Wellness podcast, which aims to help women “heal, grow and elevate their lives”. She also has her own website, hosts live Ceremony Wellness events, and has more than 34,000 followers on Instagram.
Sacramento Kings hired Walton, a former Los Angeles Lakers player (2003-2012), as their head coach in April 2019. Walton had previously coached the Los Angeles Lakers (2016-2019).
He was assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors from 2014 to 2016. Walton and Spectrum SportsNet did not respond to requests for comment, according to the the LA Times, however Walton’s attorney Mark Baute said in a statement that the allegations were “baseless”.
He added: “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
The Sacramento Kings said they were “aware” of the report and were “gathering additional information”, while the Lakers said they were never made aware of the allegations but if they were would have “immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA”.
The Warriors said they were “in the process of seeking more information”.