May 25, 2024

James Dolan and Harvey Weinstein deny sexual assault allegations

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A Tennessee woman filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday accusing Madison Square Garden chairman and governor James Dolan New York Knicks And New York Rangersof pressuring her into unwanted sex nearly a decade ago while facilitating an encounter with disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who she also claimed sexually abused her.

In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and obtained by ESPN, Kellye Croft says she was 27 years old and working as a licensed massage therapist when she met Dolan in the fall of 2013 while on tour with a I got to know the rock band Adler. (Dolan's band, JD & The Straight Shot, opened for the Eagles during the tour.)

During one encounter, the lawsuit says, Dolan “became extremely assertive and pressured Ms. Croft to have unwanted sexual intercourse with him.” In later encounters, the lawsuit says, Croft was called to Dolan's room, where he “made unwelcome advances toward Ms. Croft and she felt compelled to indulge in sex with him.”

Croft claimed that Dolan helped her arrange a trip to Los Angeles in January 2014 to take part in the tour. There, Croft claimed, she met Weinstein at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Dolan paid for her to stay. She claimed Weinstein introduced herself as one of Dolan's “best friends” and then asked if she was the massage therapist Dolan had mentioned and previously praised.

She accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her at the hotel, after which she informed Dolan, who allegedly responded to her that Weinstein was “a troubled person” with “serious problems.” The incident arose when Weinstein was convicted of years of sexual abuse, according to investigative reports in the New York Times and the New Yorker in 2017.

This alleged incident also preceded Dolan's comments that he was unaware that Weinstein, who had been a close friend, was allegedly a serial abuser of women. In 2018, Dolan, who served on the board of the Weinstein Company in 2015 and 2016, released a song with his band called “I Should've Known”, which he later linked in part to Weinstein.

ESPN typically doesn't name victims of sexual assault, but Croft issued a public statement Tuesday that said, in part: “James Dolan manipulated me, took me to California to abuse me, and then subjected me to a vicious attack suspended by Weinstein. “My hope is that my lawsuit will force Dolan to acknowledge what he did to me and accept responsibility for the harm he has caused.”

Croft, now 38, is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

E. Danya Perry, an attorney for Dolan, denied the allegations.

“None of the allegations against Mr. Dolan are entirely without merit. Kellye Croft and James Dolan enjoyed a friendship,” Perry wrote in a statement to ESPN. “The references to Harvey Weinstein are purely inflammatory and appear to plagiarize previous cases against Mr. Weinstein. These allegations reflect an act of retaliation by an attorney who has brought multiple cases against Mr. Dolan and has not won and cannot win a verdict against him. Mr. Dolan always believed that Ms. Croft was a good person and is surprised that she would agree with these claims.

“The bottom line is that this is not a he/she said matter and there is compelling evidence to support our position. We look forward to proving this in court.”

Jennifer Bonjean, a lawyer for Weinstein, said in a statement to ESPN that Weinstein “vehemently denies the baseless allegations in the recently filed lawsuit. We look forward to hearing this case in a court where the truth can be revealed.”

Weinstein, who was originally sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexual assault, was given an additional 16 years last year for rape and sexual assault in a separate case.

During a press conference on Tuesday announcing that the 2026 NBA All-Star Game will be held at the LA Clippers' soon-to-open Intuit Dome in Inglewood, California, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responded to an ESPN reporter's question the lawsuit.

“I saw the article and don’t know anything about it other than I read the article,” Silver said, “so we’ll stand by and wait to find out more information.”

In a statement to ESPN, Douglas H. Wigdor, an attorney for Croft, responded to Silver's comments.

“It’s a puzzling response from the commissioner,” Wigdor told ESPN. “No reputable CEO in America would sit idly by and wait after reading that a federal complaint has been filed against one of their executives alleging sexual assault and sex trafficking. The NBA and NHL should be no different in this regard. “We are fully prepared to participate in a fair and unbiased investigation by both commissioners as these allegations are relevant to the integrity and public trust of the respective leagues.”

ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.

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