Kings, NBA launch joint investigation into Luke Walton sexual assault allegation

The Sacramento Kings and the NBA have launched a joint investigation into sexual assault allegations made against coach Luke Walton.

Just a few days after the allegations were reported, Sacramento and the league released a statement Thursday announcing they have started an investigation to find out the truth behind the claims made by a former host on Spectrum SportsNet LA, Kelli Tennant. 

“The Kings and the NBA take these allegations very seriously and will collaborate to conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” the statement released Thursday read.

The Kings hired lawyers Sue Ann Van Dermyden and Jennifer Doughty to lead the team’s investigation. Van Dermyden is the founding partner of the Sacramento law firm, Van Dermyden Maddux, and has decades of experience conducting investigations. Doughty works with Van Dermyden and is a veteran investigator. 

The NBA will follow the lead of Elizabeth Maringer, who is one of the league’s top attorneys and previously served 12 years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. 

Walton was hired by the Kings on April 15 after parting ways with the Lakers. The Athletic reported earlier this week that Sacramento will wait to find out all of the facts before making a decision on Walton’s future. The Kings also told The Athletic that they were not aware of the accusations until TMZ reported the news.

Tennant filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court earlier this week, claiming Walton made unwanted advances toward her in a Santa Monica, California, hotel room in 2014. In the lawsuit, Tennant alleges she met with Walton to drop off her copy of a book and then he invited her up to his room, where he pinned her to the bed and forcibly kissed and groped her, according to ESPN.

She also claims he “forced an aggressive hug” and made comments about her outfit at a charity event in 2017.

“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” Walton’s attorney, Mark Baute, wrote in a statement released to the media. “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”

Baute issued another statement Wednesday afternoon (via the Los Angeles Times) denying Tennant’s claims during the news conference that he described as an attempt “to create a public circus.”

“We will not try this case in the media or pay them a dime,” Baute said.