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Woman behind Clippers scandal calls team owner 'father figure'

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The woman who recorded Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks that got him banned from the NBA insisted on Wednesday she was never his mistress but rather an employee, friend and caretaker who saw him as a "father figure."

Appearing on the nationally syndicated "Dr. Phil" television show, the woman, V. Stiviano, 31, denied repeatedly and emphatically that she had ever had been physically intimate with the 80-year-old billionaire.

"I have never had any sexual relations ... any kind of sexual contact with Mr. Sterling whatsoever," she said.

Stiviano also insisted she never used seduction to obtain the expensive gifts he furnished her, including several luxury cars and the $1.8 million Los Angeles duplex, as Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly, has alleged in a lawsuit.

"It was not a sugar-daddy relationship," she told TV therapist Phil McGraw, adding that Sterling lavished her with gifts "because he cares about me, and I'm a good human being."

"We have a very nurturing, loving relationship," she said. "The way I saw it, he was looking for me and what it is that he never got from his own children. I looked at him as a father figure. I looked at him as a mentor."

Stiviano said their relationship, while not sexual, transcended personal and professional boundaries.

She said she earned a regular paycheck as an employee but had no "set title."

"I was not only his assistant. I was his caretaker. I was his mother, I was his secretary, I was his driver. I did everything for this man in the last three years," she said.

According to Stiviano, it was her role as Sterling's secretary and a personal life coach of sorts that led to the racially charged scandal that has engulfed the Clippers and the National Basketball Association.

Sterling came under fire last month after the website TMZ.com posted an audio tape of him berating Stiviano for associating with black people and urging her not to bring minorities with her to Clippers games.

Stiviano said the recording in question was one of many she made of her private conversations with Sterling, all with his permission and knowledge, as a kind of self-help therapy.

"The purpose of the recording was for him to learn things about himself, for me to show him things about himself that sometimes he didn't want to believe and accept," she said. "I would play those things back to him just to remind him of how he acted or how offensive he can be toward another person."

Sterling, in a separate CNN interview last week, denied that he knew he was being recorded and said Stiviano had "baited" him into making provocative remarks, which Stiviano denied.

She also denied again that she had anything to do with publicizing the recording. She said it was either given or sold to TMZ by an unnamed friend to whom she had, for unspecified reasons, entrusted a copy of the tape.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Ken Wills)

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