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By Tim Stelloh, Diana Dasrath and Andrew Blankstein
Luke Walton is being sued by a sports reporter who says the NBA coach sexually assaulted her, according to a court document filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The suit, which was first reported by TMZ, alleges that Walton groped and forcibly kissed the reporter, Kelli Tennant, in a Santa Monica hotel room on an unspecified date.
The Sacramento Kings coach, a former Los Angeles Lakers forward who won two championships with the team, previously served as assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors and head coach with the Lakers beginning in 2016. Though the suit does not specify the date of the alleged assault, it indicates it happened while Walton was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warrior, a position he took beginning in the 2014-2015 season.
He was named the Kings new coach April 14. Walton could not be reached through the Kings on Monday night, but the team said it was aware of the accusations.
“We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time,” the team said in statement Monday night.
The Lakers said the alleged incident occurred before Walton was the team’s coach.
“At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers,” a statement from the team said. “If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA.”
The lawsuit alleges that Walton pinned Tennant — a former host of SportsNet LA — on the bed of his hotel room after she dropped off a book she’d written for student-athletes. Walton, who Tennant had known for years and considered a “trusted mentor and colleague,” had written the book’s forward, the complaint, which claims sexual assault and battery
Walton allegedly groped, forcefully kissed and held down Tennant, the complaint alleges.
“Terrified, Ms. Tennant immediately yelled ‘Stop it,’ and tried to free herself,” the document says.
The lawsuit states that when Tennant walked to the door, Walton grabbed her from behind, holding her arms against her body and repeatedly kissing her.
When Walton stopped, he smiled and said, “Good to see you,” according to the document.
Tennant told “certain people” about the alleged assault, the suit states, but did not publicly report it because of her role as a sports broadcaster who covered the Lakers.
The document alleges that Walton continued to “taunt” and touch Tennant in uncomfortable ways after the alleged incident in the hotel room.
The suit was filed Monday but there is no indication of whether it has yet been served. It does not specify damages.
“By this lawsuit, Ms. Tennant speaks up and says #timesup to the culture of abuse women in the NBA that is demonstrated” by Walton, the suit says.
Tennant’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News, based in California.
Andrew Blankstein is an investigative reporter for NBC News. He covers the Western United States, specializing in crime, courts and homeland security.