Charlotte Hornets

Hornets’ Jalen McDaniels says secret high school sex videos were ‘a very big mistake’

Charlotte Hornets rookie forward Jalen McDaniels said Monday he “made a very big mistake” when he secretly recorded two female high school classmates performing sexual acts in 2016.

“It was very immature and disrespectful,” McDaniels said of his actions. “At the time, I did apologize to the women that were involved, and I’m still sorry to this day.”

McDaniels made those comments during a 45-second statement he gave to the media Monday at the beginning of his first press availability since the Hornets selected him No. 52 overall in the 2019 NBA draft on June 20.

I continue to believe the Hornets never should have drafted McDaniels. What sort of message does this send to their fans, that they would take a player who has admitted to secretly videotaping sexual acts and then sharing those videos? But given that the Hornets did select McDaniels, it was at least a positive step Monday that the 6-foot-10 rookie forward acknowledged his errors.

Both women have sued McDaniels in civil court. They each contend that they were humiliated by McDaniels sharing the videos and that they eventually became suicidal due to the ridicule they faced.

McDaniels was 17 years old when he made the sex videos while attending high school in Washington state. He is 21 now, having spent the past two basketball seasons in college at San Diego State.

The Observer shared a video of McDaniels’ interview Monday with Seattle-based attorney Joan Mell, who is representing his accusers in separate lawsuits. “Glad to hear him take responsibility,” Mell said in a text.

Jalen McDaniels, a Charlotte Hornets’ second-round draft pick in 2019, sits on the sideline after practice Monday. McDaniels spoke to the media a few minutes later about the secret sex videos he recorded in high school that have led to two civil lawsuits. David T. Foster III

Mell said she “disputed” that McDaniels had offered genuine apologies to the two women before, but also said she does believe McDaniels now recognizes “the seriousness of his actions.” (The Observer does not identify the alleged victims of sexual assault or misconduct).

No criminal charges were ever filed against McDaniels. But the young women’s lives, according to their lawsuits, have been damaged for years. They have been victims of “slut-shaming” since the videos were seen by others, and their unsuccessful suicide attempts were directly related to McDaniels’ videos, their attorney has said.

‘It’s not who I am’

According to the court documents, McDaniels hid in the closet to tape one of his friends having sex with one of the women. The other sex tape involved McDaniels videotaping a consensual sexual act he had with the other woman without her knowing she was being recorded.

Mitch Kupchak, the general manager of the Charlotte Hornets, chose Jalen McDaniels with the 52nd overall pick of the 2019 NBA draft. Kupchak said the team was aware of the sex videos McDaniel recorded in high school before the team drafted him. David T. Foster III

The Hornets haven’t explained their selection of McDaniels other than general manager Mitch Kupchak saying on draft night that the team has “been aware of it (the lawsuits) for months” and that he otherwise wasn’t going to comment about the incidents. In a later statement to the Observer, the team said: “We are aware of the civil lawsuit involving Jalen McDaniels and are monitoring developments in the case. As this is a pending legal matter, it is inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”

McDaniels said Monday that the two videos shouldn’t define him.

“This mistake that happened doesn’t represent who I am,” he said. “It’s not who I am as a person. It’s just a mistake that I made in high school. Just being immature and things like that. Unfortunately, that’s all I can say about it right now.”

When I asked him why Hornets fans should believe he has changed in the 3½ years since he made the videos, McDaniels said: “I’m a grown man now. I’m 21 years old. Just trying to become the best person I can be every day. Just controlling what I can control.”

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No settlement yet

McDaniels will be a participant on the Hornets’ summer-league team, which begins play Friday in Las Vegas. As a second-round draft pick, it’s 50-50 whether he will make the team’s final roster.

McDaniels’ current attorney, Angelo Calfo, told the Observer recently about the incidents: “Jalen was a minor in high school at the time. He has never done anything like this before or has he since. He looks forward to resolving these civil lawsuits so he and the two young women can move forward.”

As to whether the lawsuits will be settled before they actually reach court, Mell said via text Monday: “Mr. McDaniels has made no offer to settle. Despite his attorney’s representations about looking forward to settlement, he has offered nothing and has not contacted us for that purpose since the draft.”

Calfo said in an interview late Monday, however: “Prior to the draft, we were in settlement negotiations with Ms. Mell for months. We expect those discussions to resume in the near future.”

McDaniels was also asked Monday what advice he would give other young people who might consider making a “stupid decision” that would haunt them down the road.

“Be smart and just think ahead,” McDaniels said. “Keep working hard ... Adversity is going to hit you at some point in your life, so stick with it. Stick to the grind.”

With that, McDaniels’ three-minute press conference was over. He walked out the door, toward a team that wants to concentrate on what they hope will be his bright future — and two lawsuits that continue to illuminate his cloudy past.

Michael Gordon contributed to this story.

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Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for The Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. In 2018, Fowler won the Thomas Wolfe award for outstanding newspaper writing. He also hosted the Observer’s hit podcast “Carruth,” which Sports Illustrated named the best podcast of the year in 2018.