Luke Walton's lawyer doubles down with tone-deaf statement against Kelli Tennant

A day after Kelli Tennant and her attorneys held a news conference to detail her sexual assault accusations against Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton, Walton’s lawyer Mark Baute is doubling down on his defense of his client. Baute released a bombastic statement that continued to claim that Walton is innocent while also questioning Tennant’s credibility and her assumed motives.

Walton’s attorney releases statement

Baute released the following statement on Wednesday afternoon.

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“These claims are false and Luke’s innocence will be proven in court. Yesterday’s press conference was a poorly staged attempt to portray the accuser as a viable spokesperson for an important movement. Her lawyers want to create a public circus to distract from their complete lack of evidence to support their outrageous claims. We will not try this case in the media or pay them a dime.”

There is a lot going on in that statement. To start with, neither Tennant or her lawyers tried to position her as a spokesperson for the #MeToo movement, which is what Baute is presumably talking about. She and her lawyers held a news conference to talk about her sexual assault accusations against Walton, which doesn’t make her the spokesperson for anything besides her own life.

Baute also believes that holding a simple news conference is creating a “public circus.” Tennant hasn’t given any interviews or gone on any news or sports shows to talk about her accusations. Thus far, she’s held a news conference and filed a lawsuit. While a news conference can certainly turn into a public circus (ahem, Magic Johnson), Tennant’s definitely wasn’t that.

As far as the “complete lack of evidence,” Tennant and her lawyers confirmed on Tuesday that there are no photos, videos, or any other hard evidence of Tennant’s alleged assault. And that’s not uncommon in sexual assault cases, especially when a woman spends years being too scared to come forward — which Tennant says she was. It doesn’t mean that her accusations are baseless or false, as Baute is trying to assert.

Former sports reporter Kelli Tennant speaks to media in Los Angeles on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Former sports reporter Kelli Tennant speaks to media in Los Angeles on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Kelli Tennant’s accusations

At the news conference on Tuesday, Tennant walked the media through her assault allegations against Walton. She detailed their friendship, which began after they became co-workers at Time Warner Sportsnet in 2013. She said that she looked at Walton as a mentor, and asked him to write the foreword of her 2014 book “The Transition: Every Athlete's Guide to Life After Sports.”

The alleged assault happened when Tennant went to Walton’s hotel to give him a copy of the book. Walton wanted to talk with her in his hotel room, and since Walton was a friend, she went with him. Tennant says that once they got into the room, Walton grabbed her, held her down, and kissed her face, neck, and chest. Tennant begged him to stop, and she says he responded by laughing at her.

Tennant, who said she was afraid Walton was going to rape her, eventually broke free and escaped from the hotel room. She said that she had been too scared to come forward until recently, especially considering Walton’s position with the Los Angeles Lakers, which required her to interact with him often.

Baute calls Tennant an ‘opportunist’

At the news conference, during which she often held back tears, Tennant said that she’s not seeking a specific amount of money or a specific jail sentence for Walton. Her lawyers said that the lawsuit is about Tennant’s wellbeing, which she’s struggled with since the alleged incident.

“I am no longer comfortable staying silent about the things that have happened to me. Although this may came as a shock to many of you in this community, this is a reality that I have been living in for years. I can no longer stand to not tell the story of what has profoundly affected my life in all of the events that we have alleged in our complaint.”

Baute has called Tennant “an opportunist, not a victim,” to cast doubt on her motives. He said that they won’t “play them a dime,” while Tennant has barely mentioned money. So what opportunity could she possibly be seeking? She stood in front of cameras and had to speak about the intimate details of an incredibly traumatic experience, which many people now know about. The internet is brimming with vitriol about her, with people calling her vile names and wishing her harm. She will forever be connected to this, so even as she tries to move on with her life, it will never be gone. The details will always be just a Google search away for any friend or romantic partner or potential employer to find.

This is not the kind of fame anyone wants. So if Baute really believes Tennant is an opportunist, maybe in his next statement he can elaborate on the opportunities he believes Tennant is seeking. Though I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

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