San Antonio Spurs face civil suit, investigation and backlash

The release of Josh Primo incites controversy among the NBA team.

San Antonio’s most popular professional sports team has been facing waves of controversy following the waiving of one of their young stars. The Spurs are currently being sued by a former employee who claims that one of their young players exposed himself to her on multiple occasions. Despite bringing this up to the organization’s management, her claims were never properly addressed and instead led to the civil lawsuit that is continuing today.

The San Antonio Spurs suddenly waived former lottery pick, Josh Primo, on Oct. 28. Primo was one of the team’s best young prospects, so the abrupt nature of the news shocked numerous media outlets and fans. Following his release, Primo issued a public statement on the matter. Through ESPN, the 19-year-old NBA player expressed his challenges with his mental state. He stressed his desire for privacy regarding his personal issues, as he had been struggling with them for an undisclosed amount of time.

“I know that you all are surprised by today’s announcement. I’ve been seeking help to deal with previous trauma I suffered and will now take this time to focus on my mental health treatment more fully,” Primo said.

More details came out on the situation after just a few days. Dr. Hillary Cauthen is a professional psychologist that formerly worked with the Spurs organization and their players. Following the waiving of Primo, allegations surfaced that Cauthen had reportedly brought up with the organization numerous times.

After starting contract work with the Spurs in September of 2021, the psychologist disclosed incidents of Primo exposing himself to her. She first reported the incidents in January. These claims of improper sexual misconduct were then met with little to no response by the Spurs’ management, who chose not to renew her contract earlier this year.

Cauthen took matters into her own hands, hiring a lawyer to aid her in suing her former employer. Her attorney, Tony Buzbee, notably represented multiple women who previously pressed charges against NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson for similar offenses. They have filed a civil lawsuit against the Spurs organization, alleging that the NBA team chose to ignore Cauthen’s nine previous complaints and instead move on silently from the situation.

Primo’s camp responded to the lawsuit by denying the allegations, claiming that there was a lack of communication between Cauthen and the NBA player. Lawyers representing Primo stated that any potential exposure was unintentional, caused only by the workout shorts of the athlete and the sofa that he had sat on during his sessions with the psychologist. Furthermore, they argued that if there had been issues prior, they had never been properly communicated with Primo. He was allegedly unaware of the potential for discomfort until only recently.

Given the clashing nature of the two stories, the figurehead of the organization, head coach Gregg Popovich, was questioned by reporters on the matter. With his experience of over 25 years leading the team, Popovich is intrinsically linked to the organization and its successes in the past. In his responses to reporters, he chose to take a backseat to the matter at hand.

“As far as the details, I think they know intellectually, like we all do, that it’s in the hands of the lawyers. We can’t say anything. That pretty much cuts everything off. … I would only add that anybody that has observed the Spurs over a very long period of time knows that an accusation like this would be taken very seriously,” Popovich said.

Since the initial lawsuit was issued, the Bexar County sheriff’s office has announced that they have begun a preliminary investigation on the matter. Due to this, it seems that both sides are now awaiting the legal process and what it may reveal going forward.

Nevertheless, the announcement of these allegations has impacted fans of the San Antonio organization. Hannah Currie, a political science major and graduating senior, is a San Antonio native and has been a regular fan of the team since her childhood. Upon hearing the news of the allegations, she was taken aback by the team that she had followed for so long. Given the way the Spurs addressed the situation, she is tentatively supporting them now but looks to better days in the future.

“The trauma that he experienced might explain [the situation], but it certainly doesn’t excuse it in the slightest. … This definitely reflects poorly on the Spurs and on Popovich for not cutting him a lot sooner. … It kinda makes me hesitant to support Pop, but they’re always bringing in new players. You can’t judge a team based on one player that they eventually cut. I’m a San Antonian, I gotta support my Spurs,” Currie said.