A clinical sports psychologist who once worked for the San Antonio Spurs filed a civil lawsuit Thursday against the team and former Spurs guard Josh Primo, saying Primo exposed his genitals to her, nine times in total. Her lawsuit also said that she complained about this multiple times to higher-ups within the team, starting back in January when she tried to speak with Spurs general manager Brian Wright about it. Her time with the team ended when her contract was not renewed in August.
“The organization I worked for has failed me,” Hillary Cauthen told reporters on Thursday. “And in turn I felt like I failed those around me when I wanted to make change.”
Primo had been cut by the team on Friday, with the Spurs offering no explanation as to why. A day later, ESPN reported that it was because of multiple reports of him exposing himself to women.
The lawsuit was filed in Bexar County, Texas, and lists intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and gross negligence as causes of action. Attorney Tony Buzbee said that Cauthen intended to file a criminal complaint as well.
The Spurs released a statement on Thursday from CEO R.C. Buford. “We disagree with the accuracy of facts, details and timeline presented today. While we would like to share more information, we will allow the legal process to play out,” the statement said. “Our organization remains committed to upholding the highest standards and will continue to live by our values and culture.”
In response to the suit, Primo’s lawyer also issued a statement.
According to the lawsuit, Cauthen started working with the team back in September 2021, not too long after Primo joined the team. As part of Primo’s pregame routine, Cauthen would hold sessions with him, both in San Antonio and on the road. He first exposed his genitals to her, according to the complaint, during an individual private session in December of last year. In response, per her lawsuit, Cauthen tried to schedule a meeting with Wright about it starting in January. But the meeting was postponed multiple times and “it was clear that Wright was avoiding the meeting, or that the issues to be discussed were not important to him,” the lawsuit said.
Cauthen and Wright finally met on March 21 of this year. At the meeting, according to the lawsuit, Wright told Cauthen that they would develop a plan for how to handle this for the rest of the season. But Primo’s behavior didn’t change, according to the complaint, and he exposed himself to her again.
“This time Dr. Cauthen met with Primo in a public setting, but unfortunately this was no deterrent. Primo again exposed his penis. Dr. Cauthen ended the session early,” the complaint reads. “Defendant Primo requested at least one other session with Dr. Cauthen; she found a way to avoid the session.”
Cauthen returned to working with the Spurs in April 13. She again met with Wright and and “expressed her frustration and concern” that nothing had been done about Primo’s behavior. According to the complaint, Wright then asked Cauthen “what consequence” she wanted to happen, and Cauthen replied by saying that she didn’t think she was the right person to decide and the team who should address it. The meeting ended with Wright telling her that the team’s lawyers would be in touch with her, the lawsuit said.
At some point, the team’s chief legal counsel and deputy general counsel reached out to Cauthen. They said an investigation would be done and told her to avoid Primo, according to the suit. Cauthen was later told that the team was doing a “write up,” the complaint said. But about a week later, when Cauthen asked what happened with the investigation and for a copy of the writeup, she ended up in a meeting with the Spurs deputy general counsel and the head of human resources. They told her, per the lawsuit, that Primo would continue to be a part of the team and she should not feel uncomfortable. They suggested that she work from home.
“At that point it was clear to Dr. Cauthen that the Spurs organization was indirectly punishing Dr. Cauthen, rather than Primo—despite his acts of repeated sexual misconduct,” the lawsuit stated.
Cauthen met with those two again the following month. They suggested that Cauthen have a “facilitated conversation” with Primo, “because they felt this might shed some light on the reasoning behind his repeatedly exposing himself to her,” the lawsuit said. Cauthen refused. The group met again a week later and said “they were considering putting into place a corrective process for the timely reporting of incidents.” They also told her that coach Gregg Popovich was aware of her complaints, though Buzbee added when speaking to reporters on Thursday that it wasn’t clear if that was true. They also asked her to not have any contract with Primo going forward.
In July, Cauthen met one last time with San Antonio’s lawyers. She told them that she wanted changes to happen. They told her that she would not be attending Summer League with the team, according to her lawsuit, and there now was “a lack of trust between her and the team.” At the end of August, her contract was not renewed.
“Hiding conduct like this isn’t acceptable,” Buzbee said Thursday. “Sweeping conduct like this under the rug won’t be tolerated.”
A copy of the lawsuit in full is below.