Former Orlando Magic and L.A. Lakers player Dwight Howard has admitted to having a sexual relationship with a man but denies assaulting him.
Howard, who has not played in the NBA since 2022, has been accused of sexual assault and battery in an incident from July of 2021 in Georgia against a man named Stephen Harper, according to the New York Post.
The 37-year-old, who has been playing in the T1 League in Taiwan since 2022, has been named in a lawsuit filed in Georgia. But through his attorney, Howard denies the allegations.
“What was a private consensual encounter was made public for profit, and Mr. Howard looks forward to bringing the truth to light in a court of law,” attorney Justin Bailey told ESPN. “The allegations against Mr. Howard are contested. Mr. Howard intends to present the truth.”
Bailey added, “The truth is Mr. Howard blocked Mr. Harper on social media and then was confronted with two options — pay to protect his reputation or have a fabricated story made public.”
Bailey added that Howard is an “easy target due to the subject matter and his status as a celebrity.” But they are choosing to “trust in the justice system and will rely on all future court filings to speak for themselves.”
The accuser says that Howard attacked him at the player’s home. Howard denies the allegation. He also denies the claims of “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and “false imprisonment,” as detailed in Harper’s lawsuit.
Howard has filed a request to have the court dismiss the civil lawsuit.
According to court documents, Harper reported the incident to the Gwinnett County Police Department in July 2022, a year after he alleged that the attack occurred. However, police officials took no action.
Attorney Bailey said Harper filed his lawsuit after Howard refused demands to pay him to remain quiet.
During his 18-year NBA career, Howard won one NBA championship when he was with the Lakers in 2020, was an 8-time All-Star, a 5× All-NBA First Team, and a 5× NBA rebounding leader. In 2004, he was the Naismith Prep Player of the Year, the McDonald’s All-American Game Co-MVP, and Mr. Georgia Basketball.