I think we can agree that Luke Walton has had a bad April. He was fired from his dream job as Lakers head coach. He was then hired for another job so fast claims of white privilege took away whatever redemption he soothed himself in. Now he is being accused of sexual assault by Kelli Tennant who is a local fixture in Los Angeles sports media, (she worked the Lakers nightly telecast). Tennant is a former volleyball player who is well respected. She alleges that Walton sexually assaulted her in a hotel room in 2016 after she dropped off a copy of her book which Walton wrote the forward. He pinned her to the bed and forced himself upon her until she extricated herself. (Tennant is 6-2, Walton is 6-9.) She alleges that he then sexually harassed her on multiple occasions.
Luke Walton was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors at the time of the alleged assault. Questions from the uninformed will go something like this: why did she wait so long, oh yeah, she wants money.
Only she can answer for the delay but generally professional women make a Faustian bargain because they want to keep working. To accuse a respected former athlete/current assistant who is employed by a superlative NBA franchise has consequences that are hard to recover from. Women just swallow it and keep on going so they can continue work. But asking why it took so long to report it isn’t the point. The point is that Luke Walton, if you believe Kelli Tennant, isn’t the man the Luke Walton image says he is. Tennant describes a toxic male who takes what he wants at the expense of a victim because he is entitled.
As in all allegations of sexual assault, the accuser is branded as a liar and the accused is characterized as the real victim. It’s classic.
“The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible” said Walton’s attorney Mark Baute. “We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
But first, the deposition. Then the details shaping the case will emerge. Derrick Rose overcame a sexual assault lawsuit at trial and his case involved sexual acts so it can be done. But Derrick Rose wasn’t the leader of a team. He was a former MVP whose career was derailed by injuries. To some, he was a sympathetic figure and his accuser was a former girlfriend. Walton finds himself in the middle of #MeToo where friendly professional relationships suddenly become unwanted sexual trauma.
Because Walton is associated with three of the four California NBA franchises, they all had to say something.
First the Lakers. Luke Walton isn’t their problem anymore and they breathed a sigh of relief that the alleged assault preceded Walton’s rough ride in Los Angeles.
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.
Walton’s new team the Sacramento Kings said:
We are aware of the reports and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time.
The Warriors who employed Walton during the alleged assault basically said the same gathering information blah blah lawyer-ese.
We became aware of the alleged incident and story this evening and are in the process of seeking more information. We’ll have no further comment at this time.
Tennant alleges she was frightened of being raped and that Walton actually told her at the end of their encounter that he was glad to see her. Afterwards, whenever he saw her, he would make lewd comments.
Derrick Rose refused to settle his sexual assault lawsuit, preferring a trial. In the court of public opinion, Luke Walton’s innocence will be judged on a similar standard. And because #MeToo has reshaped workplace politics, the world is suddenly watching Luke Walton.