LOS ANGELES — Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton says sexual assault allegations against him are not backed up by facts and are designed to attract media attention.
Walton made his comments in a court brief filed Wednesday in response to a lawsuit by former sportscaster Kelli Tennant. The lawsuit is filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, and the Sacramento Kings and the NBA are jointly investigating the accusations.
Walton's court filing claims Tennant filed a lawsuit nearly five years after the alleged assault, which the brief calls a "pleasant encounter," after she quit two jobs and needed money.
Tennant has said Walton attacked her in 2014 when he was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, but she was too afraid to file charges though she did confide in others at the time.
"I was scared," she said. "I felt coming forward would jeopardize every aspect of my life."
Tennant calls Walton a former longtime friend and mentor who wrote the foreword to a book she had written. When the coach was on a Warriors road trip to Los Angeles, she met him in the lobby of his Santa Monica hotel and he invited her to his room, she said. They discussed the book, and Walton allegedly grabbed 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 while he kissed my neck and my face and my chest," Tennant said at an April news conference, adding that when she asked him to get off, "he laughed at me."
Tennant's attorney, Garo Mardirossian, has said it's unlikely police would be able to put together a criminal case. Walton's lawyer, Mark Baute, has called Tennant "an opportunist, not a victim."
The court filing last week says the encounter was "very short, entirely pleasant and consensual," and it did not include raised voices or groping. In the filing, Walton said he did not write a foreword for Tennant's book and does not consider himself a mentor to her. They briefly worked at Spectrum Sports at the same time.
The court filing characterizes the meeting as "platonic in nature" where Tennant was "entirely pleasant during the encounter." The filing also states Tennant waited beyond the statute of limitations to come forward and has no basis to seek economic relief from Walton because she quit her job at Spectrum Sports for reasons unrelated to him.
Walton is seeking for the lawsuit to be dismissed and Tennant to pay his costs and attorneys' fees.
Tennant's lawyer, Mardirossian, on Monday said his client will prove her case through testimony in front of a jury. He disputed that Tennant sought media attention, saying the press hounded her until she gave a news conference.
Mardirossian noted that Walton's filing acknowledges that an encounter took place and said the coach is "half-heartedly denying things."
Attorneys for Walton could not immediately be reached for comment.
Breeders' Cup to add to safety measures at Santa Anita
LOS ANGELES — The Breeders' Cup will increase the number of veterinarians on site during its world championships this fall at Santa Anita, where 30 horses died during the racing meet that recently concluded.
That's according to Craig Fravel, president and chief executive of the Breeders' Cup, who said reaction to the board of directors' decision to keep the two-day event at the historic Southern California track has been "very supportive."
"People had every opportunity to know what the facts are before they decided," he said by phone Monday while driving from San Diego to Los Angeles. "The fact that it was a unanimous vote is reflective of the sentiment in the room."
Santa Anita will host for a record 10th time on Nov. 1-2.
Besides the 14 vets on-site during Breeders' Cup week, there will be 20 on hand during the two days of racing, Fravel said.
"Every horse gets examined two times, probably more," he said. "We have the strictest medication rules. We'll be looking at horses throughout the summer and fall before we get to the Breeders' Cup. We certainly don't mind people asking those questions."
The event will be run under the house rules adopted by track owner The Stronach Group to improve safety. Those include a reduction in the use of race-day Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication.
Fravel said there wasn't one factor that swayed the Breeders' Cup board to keep the event at Santa Anita.
"We've been following the situation since it began to evolve in January, February, March," he said. "It was a combination of things: medication reforms, track surface improvements and changes in management."
Belinda Stronach, president and chief executive of TSG, addressed the board at last month's meeting in Lexington, Kentucky.
Fravel is traveling to Europe next week to meet with racing officials there.
"The Europeans were incredibly supportive," he said. "I think they believe the problems are being addressed. They have confidence in the Breeders' Cup team."
At the same time, Fravel received emails from others who are unhappy about keeping the event at Santa Anita.
"People who have different perspectives have let me know, some more politely than others," he said. "I certainly understand people's perspectives on this."
Racing at Santa Anita resumes Sept. 25.
If more deaths would occur at the track during racing leading up to the Breeders' Cup, would it still be possible to change locations at the last minute?
"Anything is possible," Fravel said. "We're focused on doing the event the best way possible."