A former clinical psychologist for the San Antonio Spurs filed a lawsuit Thursday morning alleging that the organization "ignored her repeated reports of indecent exposure" by Joshua Primo, the 2021 lottery pick who was released by the team last week.
According to the lawsuit, Primo exposed himself to Dr. Hillary Cauthen a total of nine times. The first incident allegedly occurred during a psychological session with Primo in December 2021 and was reported to Spurs management in January 2022.
"Rather than act on Dr. Cauthen's reports, the Spurs ignored her complaints, hoping the organization could ignore and then cover up Primo's actions," the lawsuit filed in Bexar County, Texas, states. "The Spurs organization was willing to sacrifice Dr. Cauthen to keep what they hoped would one day be a star player.
"Once Primo's conduct entered the public sphere, the Spurs were forced to act and release Primo. The Spurs' recent actions with regard to Primo are too little, too late. The Spurs' public statement about Primo's departure is a complete farce. The Spurs' conduct sends a strong message that they, like other major sports organizations, are willing to tolerate abhorrent conduct on the part of athletes and sacrifice loyal employees, so long as the athlete is successful on the court."
Primo, through his attorney, denied any wrongdoing and lashed out at Cauthen's claims, saying she is "playing to ugly stereotypes and racially charged fears for her own financial benefit,'' and calling it an act of betrayal against a client.
"In an act of betrayal against her young client, Dr. Cauthen, who is 40 years old, falsely claims Josh Primo exposed himself to her during the course of her numerous therapy sessions," the attorney, William J. Briggs II, said. "Dr. Cauthen's allegations are either a complete fabrication, a gross embellishment or utter fantasy. Josh Primo never intentionally exposed himself to her or anyone else and was not even aware that his private parts were visible outside of his workout shorts.
"What makes the allegations even less credible is that Dr. Cauthen never informed her patient of the purported exposure. Dr. Cauthen was Mr. Primo's mental health support provider and confidant; a therapist who Mr. Primo trusted. She is much older than Mr. Primo, with many years of experience as a sports psychologist. It is baffling why she did not bother to tell her patient that his private parts were visible underneath his shorts."
Cauthen's attorney, Tony Buzbee, said Cauthen intends to file a criminal complaint with multiple counts of indecent exposure against Primo in Bexar County and that Cauthen would cooperate with authorities within the bounds of laws regarding confidentiality between a patient and psychologist.
Spurs CEO R.C. Buford said the franchise disagrees "with the accuracy of facts, details and timeline presented [Thursday]."
"While we would like to share more information, we will allow the legal process to play out," Buford said, adding that the Spurs remain "committed to upholding the highest standards and will continue to live by our values and culture.''
Primo, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 draft, was released Friday, less than three weeks after the Spurs exercised his third-year team option guaranteeing a $4.3 million salary for the 2023-24 season.
Buford cited the "best interest of both the organization and Joshua" in a statement when he was released by the Spurs.
According to Buzbee, Primo was waived just days after he allegedly exposed himself to another woman during the Spurs' trip to Minnesota last week, when Primo was held out of San Antonio's loss. Buzbee said that Primo also allegedly committed indecent exposure in Las Vegas in July while there for the NBA's summer league.
"Josh Primo's conduct is well outside of the bounds of what is normal and acceptable," Buzbee said in a Thursday morning news conference at his office in Houston. "His conduct shocks the conscience. I would also say that the Spurs' conduct, the way they handled this conduct, was egregious and absolutely unreasonable."
Cauthen was hired by the Spurs in April 2021. Her employment with the organization ended when her contract was not renewed in August 2022.
The lawsuit alleges that Primo first exposed himself to Cauthen in December and that she reported the behavior at that time. According to the lawsuit, "exposures happened on numerous occasions and grew progressively more extreme.''
Buzbee specifically cited Spurs general manager Brian Wright, as well as the team's general counsel, deputy general counsel and head of human relations, for failing to appropriately respond when Cauthen informed them of Primo's conduct in March, after several postponed attempts to meet.
The lawsuit states Cauthen was asked to meet with Primo again in a public setting and that he allegedly again exposed himself. He asked to meet with her again after that but she declined.
Buzbee said that Cauthen was told in June that coach Gregg Popovich was aware of the issue, but Buzbee added, "We may have concluded here that they were lying."
Buzbee said that instead of addressing the problem with Primo, Spurs management told Cauthen "to sit it out," telling her that she could work from home and that the team had "lost trust in her."
"The right thing is saying, 'No, this is not OK,' to hold people accountable, to make systemic change and to protect those that suffer in silence," Cauthen said at the news conference. "The right thing is also saying, 'I'm sorry. I have failed you, and we need to do better.'
"The organization I worked for has failed me. ... I spoke up. I asked for help. I gave options. My voice and my feelings, my actionable items, were silenced. Due to their inaction and protection of their assets, other individuals were impacted, and for that I am truly sorry."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.