One of the former Michigan State basketball players at the center of the controversy that has engulfed the program released a statement Tuesday disputing the primary allegations made against him in an ESPN “Outside The Lines” piece published Friday.
In his first public comments since the story ran, Travis Walton denied that he struck a female Michigan State student at an East Lansing bar in January 2010 or that he sexually assaulted a second woman a few months later.
Ashley Thompson told ‘Outside the Lines’ that she and Walton got into a heated argument after he approached her at a bar and she asked him to leave her alone. Thompson said Walton punched her twice in the face so hard that she lost consciousness and tumbled off her barstool.
Thompson filed a police report that day and provided “Outside the Lines” with medical records that show she was diagnosed with a concussion, bruises and scrapes. Walton was originally charged with misdemeanor assault and battery, but the case was dismissed a few months later and he instead pled guilty to a civil infraction for littering.
“I never physically assaulted a woman at an East Lansing establishment as alleged,” Walton wrote in his statement. “While conversing with her, and without notice or provocation, she threw a drink at me, and I subsequently left the establishment. Two written statements from independent, objective witnesses were given to the City Attorney and support my innocence.”
The second alleged incident involving Walton occurred a bit later in spring 2010. ‘Outside the Lines’ reported that Walton and two other basketball players were accused of sexual assault by a woman who did not report the incident to police but told counselors about it.
Walton said in his statement that he has never been charged with sexual assault, nor to his knowledge was the alleged sexual assault ever reported to Michigan State or the police.
“My encounters with this woman were more than just a single occasion, and my actions with her were always consensual,” he said.
These two incidents from Walton’s past are newsworthy eight years later because Michigan State has come under fire for its handling of sexual assault allegations.
Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor also employed by Michigan State, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison last Wednesday for sexually abusing more than 150 girls under his care. Some of his victims alleged that Michigan State did not properly investigate complaints about him and could have done more to end his reign of terror sooner.
Last Friday, following the resignations of Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis, basketball coach Tom Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio were thrown into the maelstrom. The “Outside The Lines” story attempted to tie Nassar’s atrocities to physical and sexual violence allegations against the Michigan State football and men’s basketball programs.
Izzo has faced scrutiny for his decision not to suspend or fire Walton after he was arrested on assault and battery charges after the first incident. Aside from saying that he will continue to cooperate with any investigations as he always has, Izzo has declined to comment on the matter.
Walton’s version of events paint Izzo in a better light. The former Michigan State guard also denied that he was fired by the university after the sexual assault accusation surfaced.
“In January of 2010, I was enrolled at Michigan State University, taking the necessary classes to complete my degree,” Walton said. “Upon graduation, I returned to Europe to continue my basketball career.”
Walton was a three-year starter for Michigan State and a captain of the Spartans’ 2009 Final Four team. He had been on the coaching staff of the Los Angeles Clippers’ G-League affiliate until Friday when the team placed him on leave after the ‘Outside the Lines’ report was published.
“I stand by these facts, and will defend myself to the extent the law allows,” Walton said in his statement Tuesday. “I apologize for the negative attention this has brought to my Spartans family, the Clippers organization and my family and friends.”
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