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Former team psychologist sues Spurs for ignoring Josh Primo complaints

A former San Antonio Spurs team psychologist alleges that Josh Primo exposed himself to her on nine occasions during their individual sessions. (AJ Mast/AP)

A psychologist formerly employed by the San Antonio Spurs filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that the organization had ignored her repeated complaints about guard Josh Primo, whom she said exposed himself to her on nine occasions during their one-on-one sessions.

Hillary Cauthen, an Austin-based sports psychologist, said she first reported to the Spurs in January that Primo had exposed himself to her during an individual session. The lawsuit states that she met with General Manager Brian Wright in March and with a Spurs legal representative in May to discuss the matter, but “nothing was done” and Primo remained an active member of the team. The Spurs opted not to renew Cauthen’s contract in August.

“My passion is to help others learn how to thrive in their world and to help organizations develop a culture of care,” Cauthen said Thursday at a news conference. “The organization I worked for has failed me.”

The 19-year-old Primo, who was San Antonio’s 2021 first-round pick, was abruptly released by the Spurs on Friday, less than three weeks after the organization picked up his $4.3 million option for the 2023-24 season.

Spurs CEO R.C. Buford said in a statement Thursday that the organization “disagreed with the accuracy of facts, details and timeline presented” by Cauthen and attorney Tony Buzbee, which suggested that 10 months elapsed between Cauthen’s first report of misbehavior and Primo’s release.

“While we would like to share more information, we will allow the legal process to play out,” Buford said. “Our organization remains committed to upholding the highest standards and will continue to live by our values and culture.”

Buzbee represented nearly two dozen women who brought sexual misconduct lawsuits against NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson. In her lawsuit, Cauthen alleges Primo exposed himself to other people on at least two occasions.

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“I’m disheartened to be standing here sharing my story, but I’m also very humbled and honored to have a place to share words that others may have not been able to,” Cauthen said. “I’m 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’m not alone in the fight to do the right thing. The right thing is saying, ‘No, this is not okay.’ To hold people accountable. To make systematic change and protect those who suffer in silence.”

Buzbee said he would also be filing a criminal complaint against Primo for indecent exposure.

Primo’s attorney, William J. Briggs II, said in a statement that Cauthen’s lawsuit was “an act of betrayal against her young client” and that her claims 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,” Briggs said. “What makes the allegations even less credible is that Dr. Cauthen never informed her patient of the purported exposure. … Josh Primo is at the beginning of a promising career and has been devastated by these false allegations and release by the Spurs.”

Primo, who was the youngest player selected in the 2021 draft after spending one season at Alabama, averaged 7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists in four appearances this season. Entering the season, he was viewed as a key piece in the Spurs’ rebuilding effort. After clearing waivers following his release, he is an unrestricted free agent.

In a statement to ESPN made Friday, before the nature of the allegations became public, Primo said he was “seeking help to deal with previous trauma I suffered” and that he would “take this time to focus on my mental health treatment more fully.”

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