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NBA, Kings close investigation into Luke Walton without finding wrongdoing

Sacramento Kings Introduces Luke Walton

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 15 : Vlade Divac introduces Luke Walton as the new Head Coach of the Sacramento Kings at a press conference on April 15, 2019 at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Kelli Tennant sued Kings coach Luke Walton for alleged sexual assault. Walton denied the allegations, which stem from his time with the Warriors and Lakers. The NBA and Kings investigated.

Kings release:

The Sacramento Kings and the NBA announced today the results of an investigation into allegations of improper conduct made by Kelli Tennant against Kings Head Coach Luke Walton. Ms. Tennant elected not to participate in the investigation. Based on this and the available evidence, the investigators determined that there was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations made against Coach Walton.

On April 22, 2019, Ms. Tennant filed a civil lawsuit against Coach Walton and, on April 23, held a press conference in which she described claims of alleged sexual assault, verbal and physical harassment, and unwanted physical contact over a three-year period. Two days later, the Kings and the NBA commenced an investigation. The investigatory team was led by Sue Ann Van Dermyden, from the Sacramento law firm Van Dermyden Maddux, and Elizabeth Maringer, Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel of the NBA.

During the investigation, more than twenty individuals were interviewed, including Coach Walton, and numerous documents and other relevant materials were reviewed. 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.

Presumably, Tennant’s lawsuit will proceed. She might have found no reason to participate in an investigation by Walton’s private employer.

Tennant alleged Walton forced himself upon her in a hotel room. That’s incredibly difficult to corroborate, especially if she wouldn’t participate in an investigation. Don’t mistake a lack of evidence with proof of innocence.

She also alleged other incidents of continued harassment. There were more likely to be witnesses for those, but apparently the NBA and Kings didn’t find wrongdoing there, either.

Tennant still has an opportunity to present her case in court. I suggest withholding judgment until then.

With training camp around the corner, I understand why the NBA and Kings couldn’t wait. Resolution on their end was important before the season starts. An accusation alone shouldn’t have cost Walton his job. Hopefully, investigators made their best effort to discover the truth. At this point, it’s reasonable to allow Walton to continue as Sacramento’s coach.

But with the lawsuit still pending, this isn’t necessarily the end of this.