Portland Trail Blazers officials quickly shut down a question about Chauncey Billups’ past during the new coach’s introductory press conference on Tuesday.
Billups’ 1997 sexual assault allegation when he was a player for the Boston Celtics was thrust into the spotlight after his hiring with Portland. Billups and then-teammate Ron Mercer were accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a comedy show. No charges were filed against Billups, as he denied any non-consensual sex took place, and the suit was settled in 2000, according to The Washington Post.
Jason Quick, a reporter for The Athletic, asked Billups to elaborate on his comments about the 1997 incident shaping him in “unbelievable ways.” That’s when Portland’s PR team stepped in.
“We’ve addressed this. It’s been asked and answered. So, we’re happy to move onto the next question,” a person said off-screen during the press conference.
Earlier in the news conference, Portland Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Oshey told reporters the organization looked into the allegation.
“With all sincerity, and you have my word … We took the allegations very seriously, and we took them with the gravity that they deserved,” Olshey said, via Bleacher Report.
“We commissioned our own independent investigation into the incident in 1997. Our investigation corroborated what Chauncey told us, that nothing non-consensual occurred. We stand by Chauncey.”
The Trail Blazers came under fire for hiring Billups amid the sexual assault allegations. Billups was an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers, had a borderline Hall of Fame basketball career and served as an ESPN basketball analyst before getting his first head coaching gig.
Some of the backlash fell on Damian Lillard as well. He was forced to answer a tweet about the Billups hire.
“Really? I was asked what coaches I like of the names I ‘heard’ and I named them. Sorry I wasn’t aware of their history I didn’t read the news when I was 7/8yrs old. I don’t support Those things … but if this the route y’all wana come at me… say less,” Lillard tweeted.
The Trail Blazers’ basketball chief, Olshey, had nothing but good things to say in the initial statement announcing Billups.
“Chauncey is a proven leader with an elite basketball IQ that has won everywhere he has been,” Olshey said. “He is prepared for the challenge of developing the Championship habits and strategic approach we need to achieve the expectations and goals for our franchise.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.