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NBA, teams never reached out to Lamb accuser, lawyer says

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Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of alleged sexual assault.

When the Warriors added Anthony Lamb on a two-way contract last fall, reporters grilled Golden State general manager Bob Myers about public sexual assault allegations against Lamb. 

In December of last year, Kendall Ware filed a lawsuit against the University of Vermont that said Lamb raped her while both were students there in 2019. But well before the lawsuit, allegations that Lamb had committed sexual assault while he was a student at UVM had been swirling on social media

That’s what Myers was asked about in October.

In response, Myers said that he checked about the sexual assault case with the NBA league office and the other teams, the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs, which had previously signed Lamb. The Warriors never reached out to Ware or her lawyers, before or after the lawsuit was filed, the San Francisco Examiner reported Friday.

Neither the Rockets nor Spurs — nor the NBA league office — have reached out to Ware or her representatives, a lawyer for Ware told SFGATE. In an interview, Karen Truszkowski, one of Ware’s lawyers in the lawsuit against the University of Vermont, emphasized that Ware’s lawsuit was about the university’s serial mishandling of sexual assault cases, not Lamb’s NBA career. 

“It’s not about the status or position of [Lamb],” Truszkowski said. “It’s about how the school responded, and that’s where our focus is.” 

Ware and two other women filed suit in December against UVM and several administrators, saying the school and its athletic department had a “deliberate indifference” to sexual assault. It is in those court documents that Ware first publicly said that Lamb had raped her, although she reported the incident to the school in 2019. (Lamb is not a defendant in the lawsuit, and has not been charged with a crime. SFGATE, like most other major news organizations, does not typically name victims of sexual assault. Ware has spoken extensively about her experience in the media and came forward as a plaintiff in the suit.)

When the Warriors first added Lamb this fall, Myers shifted some of the responsibility for vetting Lamb to the league itself. “If the NBA had said, this is not something we would recommend, or do, or if there’s an ongoing investigation, we would have not moved forward,” he said. “They have more information than we do in this situation and we had to lean on that. We had to lean on the prior teams that signed him.” (When Ware’s lawsuit was filed in December, the Warriors told SFGATE that “we did our due diligence with the NBA and his prior teams, as we do with all players.” A Warriors spokesperson reiterated that statement for this story.)

The NBA league office did not answer direct questions about whether it had conducted an investigation of Lamb and what such an investigation would have entailed. “Anthony Lamb has played for four NBA or NBA-affiliated teams since 2021,” a league spokesperson told SFGATE. “At no point did evidence come to our attention that would have provided a basis for our refusing to allow Lamb to do so.”

The Rockets and Spurs organizations — where Lamb spent brief stints before catching on with the Warriors this season — did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Myers had claimed in October that the Warriors’ “general counsel looked into it himself.” On Oct. 16, a “league source” told the San Francisco Chronicle that the NBA had “investigated the case and ‘found nothing’ that specifically implicated Lamb.” (The Chronicle and SFGATE are both owned by Hearst but have separate newsrooms.)

Yet for all of that supposed rooting around, no one from the league or its teams spoke to Ware herself, or her representatives, her attorneys say. Ware has been speaking to reporters publicly about her experience being raped by a Vermont “men’s basketball player” for years, and several email addresses and phone numbers for her lawyers are listed in the lawsuit she filed three months ago.

Professional sports leagues’ extrajudicial investigations may not exactly be beacons of accountability or justice, but there is a long record of leagues wanting to speak to victims. For example, when a woman accused former NFL receiver Antonio Brown of raping her in a 2019 lawsuit, the league office interviewed her for 10 hours. The NBA, like the other major American sports leagues, does not need a criminal case to punish players for sexual misconduct; since 2017, the league and its players union have had a joint policy banning domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

In the lawsuit, Ware said that she had reported three instances of sexual abuse by Lamb to the university. In addition to her account of being raped in 2019, Ware reported two other episodes: “one where Lamb had removed his condom, non-consensually, during sexual intercourse; and another, at Lamb’s family home, where Lamb had filmed her during sexual intercourse without her consent.”

Through the Warriors, Lamb issued a statement in December when SFGATE wrote about Ware’s lawsuit. “The allegations made against me in 2019 that have recently resurfaced are patently false,” he said in the statement. “I have always been fully cooperative regarding the alleged incident, and have welcomed any investigation into the matter. Simply put, I have never committed sexual assault.” 

Improbably, Lamb has become an important member of the Warriors as the most critical part of the season approaches. On Sunday, he played his 50th game with the Warriors — the maximum amount allowed for a player on a two-way contract — and it seems likely that the team will convert him to a fully guaranteed NBA deal, a move that would allow Lamb to play in the rest of the regular season as well as the playoffs if the Warriors qualify.

“I’d like to have Lamb on the roster,” head coach Steve Kerr said Sunday. “… He’s been really helpful for us this year. We’d love to get him on the roster and we’ll see what happens.” The Warriors are likely to make their decision by the beginning of next week.

In Ware’s lawsuit, she says that she was “shattered” by the assault, suffering from a “deep depression” afterward. She alleges that the University of Vermont chose to protect Lamb over her at every turn. “UVM’s priorities were transparent throughout Ware’s Title IX investigation,” the lawsuit says. “Its star athlete had to be protected, no matter the cost.”

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