Warning: Story contains sensitive content
Kelli Tennant, the former sports reporter who said in a civil lawsuit that Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton sexually assaulted her, told reporters Tuesday that fear kept her from reporting the incident sooner.
"I was scared," Tennant said. "When someone assaults you, and you think you're going to be raped, coming forward is a scary thing. And I have spent years now dealing with this."
Tennant says Walton assaulted her during a 2014 visit to a hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. The pair worked together the previous year at Los Angeles-area cable channel Time Warner SportsNet (now Spectrum SportsNet), and Walton also wrote the foreword for Tennant's book. She added that she was friends with Walton's wife.
Walton was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors at the time of that 2014 meeting. Tennant says she went to deliver Walton a copy of her book when he insisted she join him in his room.
"I asked him why we were going up to the room, and he said because the players on his team were in the lobby," she said. "He didn't want to be seen in the lobby with the players."
It was in his room where Tennant says the assault occurred.
"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. And as I kept asking him to please stop, to get off, he laughed at me," she said.
"I continued to ask him to stop, over and over again, without any use of my arms, because he continued to hold me down. I could feel him rubbing his erection on me ... and he continued to laugh at all of my pleas to get off. I thought he was going to rape me."
Tennant says she was ultimately able to free herself, but that Walton again grabbed her from behind and kissed her neck before she was able to finally escape the room.
"I was grateful that he was not (living) in Los Angeles and that I wouldn't have to interact with him after this," she said. "But everything changed in 2016 when he joined the Lakers."
During a charity event after Walton became the Lakers' head coach, Tennant says, "(He) looked me up and down slowly, and started making noises ... (and he said), 'Mmm, you're killing me in that dress.'"
No criminal complaint has ever been filed against Walton in the matter, according to the Santa Monica Police Department. Tennant's lawyer, Garo Mardirossian, told the news conference Tuesday that they are not seeking criminal punishment for Walton.
"Our interest isn't to see Mr. Walton in jail," Mardirossian said. "It is about Kelli feeling better about herself."
In a statement released prior to the news conference, Mardirossian said the NBA has a problem with "gender abuse" and "sexual exploitation."
"Women connected to the National Basketball Association have long had to suffer in silence through the indignities of gender abuse and sexual exploitation at the hands of famous, wealthy, and powerful men," the statement read, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "Aided by their fame, money, and power, and motivated by a culture that tolerates misogynistic gender-bias, too many men in professional basketball inappropriately abuse women."
Walton has denied the accusations through his lawyer, Mark Baute. The Kings, who just hired Walton as their head coach last week, have said they are investigating the matter.