The N.B.A. and the Sacramento Kings announced Friday afternoon that they had concluded an investigation into an accusation of sexual assault made against Coach Luke Walton, finding “there was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations.”
A joint news release from the team and league stated that more than 20 people were interviewed, though not the accuser, Kelli Tennant, who declined to participate in the investigation. The case is considered closed “unless new evidence becomes available.”
Tennant said in a lawsuit filed earlier this year that Walton pinned her to a bed and forcibly kissed and groped her in a hotel room in 2014, while he was working as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors. She was formerly a host for Spectrum SportsNet, a Southern California sports network, and said Walton had become her friend and mentor. She had come to the hotel to give him a copy of her recently published book that he had written the foreword to.
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At a news conference after filing the suit, Tennant said that she hadn’t spoken publicly about the encounter when it happened because she feared possible negative ramifications for her career.
Walton vigorously denied Tennant’s claims at the time; his lawyer, Mark D. Baute, called her an “opportunist.” In a prepared statement Friday, Walton did not comment on the investigation but said he is “100 percent focused on coaching the Sacramento Kings.”
The Kings, in their statement, said Walton “is our head coach and we support him and his team as they continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”
Tennant’s lawyer, Garo Mardirossian, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, remains active, with a trial scheduled for October of next year.
The lawsuit was filed in April, shortly after Walton left the Los Angeles Lakers and was named the head coach of the Kings. The Lakers said at the time that the incident was never reported to the team, and that if it had been, they would have immediately notified the league.
In April, the N.B.A. and Kings announced that they would jointly investigate the accusations, and hired Van Dermyden Maddux Law, a Sacramento-area law firm, to do so. Walton worked during the investigation, hiring a coaching staff and otherwise preparing for the season.
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SOURCE : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/23/sports/basketball/luke-walton-kelli-tennant.html