NBA investigation concludes in Sacramento Kings coach sexual allegations

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 05: Luke Walton of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the first half of the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on April 05, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO — The NBA and Sacramento Kings announced Friday that their investigation found insufficient evidence to support sexual assault allegations against Kings head coach Luke Walton.

Kelli Tennant, a former sports reporter, filed a lawsuit in April saying she sustained physical injuries and suffered mental and emotional distress after Walton forced himself on her in a Santa Monica, California, hotel room, about five years ago. She did not file a criminal complaint.

The Kings organization said in a news release that Tennant did not participate in the investigation that included interviews with over 20 people, including Walton.

“The investigators made repeated attempts to interview Ms. Tennant, but, through her counsel, she declined the opportunity to participate. The investigation is considered closed unless new evidence becomes available,” the release said.

CNN has reached out to Tennant and her attorney Garo Mardirossian, but has not heard back.

The Kings released a statement saying: “Luke Walton is our head coach and we support him and his team as they continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Walton also released a statement saying he’s “100% focused on coaching the Sacramento Kings, and energized to work with this incredible group of players and coaches as we start the preseason. I will have no further comment.”

Lawsuit said Walton pinned Tennant to a hotel bed

According to the lawsuit, at the time of the alleged assault, Tennant was a reporter, broadcaster and host for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA. She now hosts a podcast.

Walton had been a friend and mentor, she said, and Tennant contacted him when he became assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors in 2014. She wanted to give him a copy of a book for which she’d asked him to write a foreword.

According to the lawsuit, Walton suggested he and Tennant needed to go to his hotel room because he didn’t want to be seen in the lobby with his team’s players. She said 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.

Tennant’s attorney Mardirossian said that, at the time, Tennant told a few people close to her about what had happened.

Mardirossian also told reporters in April that Tennant did not file a criminal complaint because they weren’t interested in seeing him go to prison, but they wanted her to be able to tell her story. He also talked about the difficulty of prosecuting a criminal case when several years have passed.

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.

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