Dr. Hillary Cauthen is a sports psychologist who has accused Josh Primo of exposing himself to her nine times during sessions while she worked with the San Antonio Spurs. The NBA team cut Primo, a 19-year-old who they picked in the first round of the 2021 draft, in October 2022. Cauthen filed a lawsuit against the Spurs and Primo in Bexar County, Texas, court in November 2022, and her attorney revealed they plan to file a criminal complaint.
Cauthen spoke out publicly at a press conference alongside her attorney, Tony Buzbee, on November 3, 2022. Buzbee also represents multiple women who have accused Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual assault and sexual misconduct while he was playing for the Houston Texans. The Spurs have not commented on the lawsuit. Primo denied the accusations.
Primo’s attorney, William Briggs II, said in a November 3 statement, “Josh Primo is a 19-year-old NBA player who has suffered a lifetime of trauma and challenges. He is now being victimized by his former team-appointed sports psychologist, who is playing to ugly stereotypes and racially charged fears for her own financial benefit.”
Briggs added, “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. 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.”
The lawsuit calls the Spurs’ statement on Primo’s release a “complete farce,” and said they are sending a message the organization is “willing to tolerate abhorrent conduct. on the part of athletes and sacrifice loyal employees, as long as the athlete is successful on the court.” The lawsuit states, “Dr. Cauthen files this case advancing the opposite message — basic human decency and doing the right thing is more important than successfully throwing a ball through a hoop.” Cauthen’s lawsuit adds, “Primo’s conduct was obviously disturbing, wrong and actionable; the Spurs’ conduct, in the way its people handled the matter, is egregious, alarming and damning.”
Here’s what you need to know about Dr. Hillary Cauthen and her accusations against Josh Primo and the Spurs:
1. Dr. Hillary Cauthen ‘Lost Her Dream Job Because the Spurs Organization Ignored Her Repeated Reports of Indecent Exposure’ by Joshua Primo, Her Lawsuit States
Buzbee wrote in the lawsuit, “Dr. Hillary Cauthen, a licensed, credentialed clinical psychologist, lost her dream job because the Spurs organization ignored her repeated reports of indecent exposure on the part of Defendant Joshua Primo. Because it has now been reported that at least two other incidents of exposure occurred involving Primo (one apparently in Nevada and one in Minnesota), Primo was recently released from the team. Yet, Dr. Cauthen made her first report about Primo’s conduct to SPurs management in January 2022.”
The lawsuit adds, “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 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.”
According to the lawsuit, Cauthen began working with the Spurs in September 2021 as a contractor. Cauthen is accusing Primo of exposing his genitals to her nine times during “individual private sessions, despite her numerous complaints about Primo’s improper sexual conduct to the organization’s leadership.”
Cauthen started working with Primo in August 2021 and their sessions took place in private medical training rooms at the Spurs’ arena in San Antonio, according to the lawsuit, as well as in similar rooms at other NBA arenas. “Primo first exposed his genitals to Dr. Cauthen during an individual private session in December 2021,” the lawsuit states. “Unfortunately, despite Dr. Cauthen’s reports, such exposures happened on numerous occasions and grew progressively more extreme. Primo’s behavior went unchecked by the organization’s leadership for many months.”
Cauthen said she met with Spurs General Manager Brian Wright in March 2022 after she was unsuccessful at scheduling a meeting with him for more than two months, according to the lawsuit. Cauthen said she told Wright she was “uncomfortable meeting with Primo alone and she expressed feelings of confusion, embarassment and fear,” according to the lawsuit. Wright “promised to develop a plan,” for how to deal with the issue, the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, nothing was done after that meeting and Cauthen was asked to meet with Primo again, which she did, this time in a “public setting.” But Cauthen said Primo “again exposed his penis,” and Cauthen ended the session early and then declined attempts by Primo to have another meeting at a later date, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also states that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich “was aware of her complaints and accusations and that he ‘wanted to do right by her.'” According to the lawsuit, Cauthen’s contract was not renewed when it ended on August 31, 2022. When asked about her reaction to Primo’s release she said at the press conference she had “mixed emotions.” Cauthen told reporters, “There’s anger, there’s sadness, there’s confusion. But I can’t speak to why they let him go.”
2. Hillary Cauthen Says the Spurs ‘Failed’ Her & She Spoke Up to ‘Do the Right Thing’
Hillary Cauthen said during the press conference, “I am disheartened to be standing here, sharing the events of my story. But I am also very humbled and honored to have the place to share words that others may have not been able to. I am a clinical sports psychologist, I’m a mother of four wonderful daughters, I’m a woman and I am a victim. I am many things, but I am not alone in the fight to do the right thing. 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 added, “The right thing is also to say I’m sorry, I have failed you and we need to do better. My passion is to help others learn to thrive in their world and to help organizations develop a culture of care. The organization I worked for has failed me. … I ask for everyone listening to not jump to harsh criticism or conclusions. This is a sensitive matter and these are humans who are impacted. We cannot assume, but we can take action. It took the Spurs 10 months to do the right thing. That’s too long. My hope is that all who hear can learn from this. I hope through this that I can be an agent for change. It’s never too late for us to change and be better.”
In his statement, Primo’s lawyer, Briggs, added, “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.”
He continued, “Josh Primo is at the beginning of a promising career and has been devastated by these false allegations and release by the Spurs. He is in the process of seeking treatment to deal with the trauma inflicted on him by Dr. Cauthen’s misleading allegations, in addition to the previous trauma he suffered as a child. He looks forward to clearing his name and to moving forward with his NBA career.”
Buzbee said in the press conference that he consulted with the Texas licensing board and other lawyers to make sure that Cauthen does not violate HIPAA or other medical privacy laws while speaking out about her accusations against Primo. Buzbee said they have been “threatened” if they “disclose” what happened during the sessions, according to the press conference.
“Dr. Cauthen won’t, can’t and would not disclose what was said during any psychological session between herself and Joshua Primo,” Buzbee said. “She can only disclose what is actionable conduct. That is conduct that might be considered criminal under Texas law and actionable in civil law. We do not believe, and I don’t think anyone would believe, that what we’re going to describe to you would be considered non-verbal communication.”
3. Cauthen Is the Director of Performance Services for Texas Optimal Performance & Psychological Services & Is Also an Adjunct Professor
According to her LinkedIn profile, Cauthen is the director of performance services for Texas Optimal Performance & Psychological Services (TOPPS), a company she founded in November 2015 to work with athletes and teams.
Cauthen additionally works as an adjunct faculty member in the sports psychology program at John F. Kennedy University in California and as an adjunct professor at Texas State University, teaching psychology, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also helped start Blu Chip Analytics and co-founded Living Mental Wellness LLC, according to her LinkedIn page.
Cauthen wrote on LinkedIn, “I am curious about the athletic mindset and finding ways to enhance one’s ‘heart’ and inner drive to reach their own personal success. While pushing oneself to their physical limits one can begin to understand the importance of mental strength. I strongly believe in the practice of: embracing personal growth, enhancing performance, and enriching the passion. My goal is to understand your experience and provide evidence based treatment to assist you in personal growth and empowerment. I focus on your needs and believe in the importance of enhancing your support system, as we can all use someone by our side rather than taking the road alone.”
4. Cauthen Studied at the University of New Hampshire & Miami University Before Earning Her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles in 2013
Cauthen graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2006 with degrees in kinesiology and psychology, according to her LinkedIn profile. She was a member of the cross country and track and field teams at UNH, according to her LinkedIn. She then studied at Miami University in Ohio, earning her master’s degree in sport behavior and performance, her LinkedIn says.
Cauthen also has a master’s in clinical psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles. She has been a licensed psychologist in Texas since January 2020 and a certified mental performance consultant since 2016.
At the press conference, Cauthen said, “I was honored and grateful to even have the opportunity to be embedded in the team. It’s very rare to have someone that has the chance to build something with an organization and I chose to build something with people that I trusted and I feel like, more importantly, that I have lost the impact to help other individuals in that organization, it was taken away from them. I lost my job. It’s really hard.”
5. Cauthen Gave a Tedx Talk in 2019 on the ‘Toxicity of Sport Culture on Athletes’ Mental Health’
In 2019, Cauthen gave a Tedx Talk titled “Toxicity of Sport Culture on Athletes’ Mental Health.” The description says, “An emotional talk from personal story to professional experience with mental health of athletes. Examining the culture of sport and championship building and providing 3 steps to assist in improving athletes’ mental wellness.
The description adds, “Dr. Hillary Cauthen, a clinical sport psychologist and certified mental performance consultant specializes in mental health treatment for athletes, coaches, and parents. Dr. Cauthen has significant experience in the sport environment, as a competitive youth and Division 1 collegiate athlete, her experience has guided her professional development and is the crux of creating a Culture of Care for a Culture of Champions.”
Cauthen, speaking at Texas State University, said, “Athletes aren’t taught it’s OK to not be OK.” Cauthen added, “We currently romanticize our athletes. Our Olympians and professional athletes, we think are superhuman and super heroes. And yes, they do pretty amazing things with their bodies. But we don’t allow them to be breakable. This environment makes them be stoic and can be toxic with the bracket of morality. Have you ever really listened to how coaches speak to their athletes? Sometimes, more than often and not, in any other profession these words would get us fired. … Why do we think it’s OK for a coach to yell in a child’s face? … I ask you, ‘Does this culture really build champions?'”