A former sports reporter said she was breaking her silence for the first time Tuesday after filing a lawsuit against former Lakers coach Luke Walton for an alleged sexual assault that took place in a Santa Monica hotel in 2014.
"I am no longer comfortable staying silent," Kelli Tennant said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "No woman should ever be made to feel like a victim."
Tennant filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday alleging that Walton assaulted her in a hotel room in Santa Monica during his time as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors.
Tennant claims she went to Walton's hotel room to discuss a book she was writing when the misconduct occurred.
During a news conference Tuesday, she said she was hesitant to go up to his room, but he allegedly told her, "it's me," as a way to assuage her reticence.
Tennant, a former USC volleyball player and Sportsnet host, accused the newly-named Sacramento Kings coach of pinning her to a bed, groping her and forcibly kissing her.
"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. He kissed my neck and my face and chest. And as I asked him to please stop and get off, he laughed at me," she said.
The alleged incident happened before Walton became coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016 and while Tennant worked for Sportsnet LA, the Lakers television rights holder.
Tennant did not initially report the alleged assault, and shortly thereafter had to interact with Walton on a constant basis after he was hired by the Lakers in April of 2016.
"I was 25 when this first happened. As a young woman who had only been in this job for less than a year, who was incredibly grateful for where I was and had worked incredibly hard to get to that position, I was scared and I felt coming forward would jeopardize every aspect of my life," she said.
Tennant said that Walton would often greet her with an aggressive hug or kiss and make inappropriate comments, despite her telling him his advances were unwanted.
Tennant abruptly left Spectrum SportsNet LA in 2017, and now works for Amazon Prime covering the Association of Volleyball Professionals tour. She also hosts a podcast called "Ceremony Wellness" that focuses on women's health issues.
No date was given for the alleged assault, but her lawyer said it happened sometime in 2014.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Tennant's lawyer declined to say whether she reported the alleged assault to police, but her lawyer said she told her immediate family at the time.
"Coming forward is a scary thing. I have spent years now dealing with this trying to forget about it, hoping I could push it to the side and bury it," she said. "I was scared for my job, my safety, and what my life would be like."
Walton was let go by the Lakers earlier this month and hired by the Kings 24 hours later.
The Lakers say they were never told of the allegations when Walton was their coach and have no additional comment because he now works for another team.
"This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers," the Lakers said in a statement. "At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers. If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment."
The Kings and the Golden State Warriors said they were aware of the report and are seeking additional information. Both teams had no other comment.
Walton has not issued a statement or response.
Tennant's attorney Garo Mardirossian submitted the lawsuit around 4:45 p.m. Monday by email. He said he did not believe a court case number had been assigned but that he should have one before the news conference. It's unclear if the lawsuit has been served to Walton.