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Ben Roethlisberger I Regret Staying In Tunnel for Nat'l Anthem

9/25/2017 1:12 PM PDT
Breaking News

Ben Roethlisberger says he actually LOST SLEEP over the way the Pittsburgh Steelers handled the national anthem situation on Sunday ... and wishes he wouldn't have stayed in the tunnel. 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had said before the game that the team would "not participate" in the anthem to protect the players from having to take a public stance on the issue. 

All but one of the players stayed out of sight -- the exception being offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva (a retired Army Ranger) ... who stood on the field. 

Now, Big Ben -- who stayed in the tunnel during the "Star Spangled Banner" -- says he regrets not joining Villanueva. 

"The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently," Roethlisberger said.

"We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting."

"As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest."

"I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality."

"Moving forward, I hope standing for the Anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe."

White House: Trump's 'S.O.B.' Comments Are Patriotic

9/25/2017 11:43 AM PDT

Donald Trump was defending the honor of the American flag when he called for NFL owners to fire any "son of a bitch" who doesn't stand during the national anthem ... this according to the White House press secretary. 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders just fired back at reporters during a White House press briefing -- where she was asked if Trump's 'S.O.B.' comments crossed the line. 

"It's always appropriate for the president of this country to promote our flag," Sanders said. 

"This isn't about the president being against anyone. This is about the president and Americans being for something."

Colin Kaepernick Surfaces After NFL Protests Smiling & Jacked

9/25/2017 10:27 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Colin Kaepernick doesn't seem to be phased by President Trump calling him a "son of a bitch" -- he surfaced in NYC on Monday on his way to the gym ... and he looks ready to play. 

Kaepernick smiled when asked how he felt about the scores of NFL players who took a knee on Sunday following the national anthem protest he started last year -- but the smile faded when he was asked about Trump's newest comments

The ex-49ers quarterback was decked out in gym gear -- wearing a shirt that says "dope" -- and looked like he's put on some serious muscle mass since last season. 

There were questions about his weight and if he's actually training to get back into the league. He definitely looks the part here. 

Kaep was with his girlfriend, Nessa -- one of the biggest radio personalities in the country. 

Marshawn Lynch Growls at TMZ Photog ... Scares Crap Out Of Him

9/25/2017 7:38 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Marshawn Lynch went full Beast Mode on a TMZ Photog this weekend -- GROWLING at our guy ... and it was hilarious!! 

It all went down on Saturday in D.C. -- when our camera guy saw the Oakland Raiders RB and asked him about Donald Trump slamming players like him who have demonstrated during the national anthem. 

Lynch decided (correctly) that it would be funny to mess with our photog ... and menacingly stomped toward him ... snarling loudly as he got close.

Our guy was so scared, he shut down the camera and almost fell backwards -- Marshawn burst into laughter!!!

The whole thing is pretty funny. Especially after the last time he messed with us

Beast Mode, 2. TMZ, 0.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Breaks with NASCAR Owners ... Approves NFL Protests

9/25/2017 6:43 AM PDT
Breaking News

Not all NASCAR people are siding with Trump -- with Dale Earnhardt Jr. throwing his support behind NFL protesters ... despite several NASCAR owners bashing them. 

After POTUS said NFL owners should fire any "son of a bitch" who takes a knee, two of the most powerful men in NASCAR gave major stamps of approval. 

Richard Petty said, "Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period."

Team owner Richard Childress was asked what he would do if any of his staffers protested the anthem -- "Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over."

But Earnhardt -- hands down the most popular NASCAR driver of the last 10 years -- sees things differently ... and weighed in Monday morning with a quote from John F. Kennedy

"All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests," Dale Jr. tweeted. 

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

As for Trump, POTUS praised the NASCAR community early Monday morning. 

"So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won't put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag - they said it loud and clear!"

Tom Brady I Certainly Disagree with Trump ... 'Just Divisive'

9/25/2017 6:12 AM PDT
Breaking News

Tom Brady is speaking out against his good friend, Donald Trump -- saying his comments blasting NFL players who protest are "just divisive" and he disagrees with everything POTUS said. 

The Patriots QB appeared on WEEI's "Kirk & Callahan" on Monday and was asked to weigh in on Trump, considering he once had a "Make America Great Again" hat in his locker.

"Yeah, I mean, I certainly disagree with what he said and, you know, thought it was just divisive," Brady said.

He's clearly referring to comments Trump made on Friday night where Trump encouraged NFL owners to fire any "son of a bitch" player who takes a knee.

Brady locked arms in solidarity with his teammates before the Pats vs. Texans game on Sunday -- and explained, "I just want to support my teammates and -- I always thought, I'm never one that says 'Oh, that's wrong,' or 'that's right,' ... but I do believe in what I believe in, and I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust, and those are the values that my parents instilled in me."

"I've been blessed to be in a locker room with guys from all over the United States over the course of my career ... I mean, I think one thing about football is it brings so many guys together."

"Guys that you would never have the opportunity to be around. Whether it was in college, and all the way into the pros. And we're all different. And we're all unique. And you know, that's what makes us all so special."

George Lopez Blasts NFL's 'Arm-Locking' Protest ... Just Take a Knee!

9/25/2017 5:58 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

George Lopez is all about NFL players taking a knee to protest -- but he thinks the locking arms thing is stupid.

The comedian was leaving TAO in L.A. on Sunday when he was asked if it was out of line for players to take a knee after President Donald Trump condemned the action.

"Not at all," Lopez said ... "That's part of the Constitution. That's part of freedom of expression."

Lopez continued ... "Now, locking hands? That's different. That's more Rockettes. Taking a knee is [good]."

George also referenced Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan -- who locked arms with players before the Ravens game on Sunday -- and called the action "invalid" since he reportedly donated $1 mil to the Trump campaign.

Eli Apple's Mom War Over NFL Star's NCAA Rings ... After Nasty Divorce

9/25/2017 12:45 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

The mother of NY Giants cornerback Eli Apple is locked in a bitter war with the husband she JUST divorced -- cops are involved ... and Eli's college championship rings are caught in the middle.

You know Eli's mom -- her big, outgoing personality earned her a gig on ESPN right around the time he was drafted in 2016.

TMZ Sports has learned ... Annie Apple and Tim Apple (the man who raised Eli) split and their divorce was finalized back in June. They were married for 16 years and Eli even took Tim's last name in 2012.  

But things have gotten bad and the family is divided.

Eli's brother, Dane Blackson, tells us ... Annie arrived to the family home in NJ on Wednesday with a police officer in tow looking to take back a bunch of Eli's football memorabilia. 

Some of the items she wanted include the 2014 Big Ten and National Championship rings Eli won at Ohio State.  

But Dane says he refused to hand over the rings, claiming Eli gifted them to Tim as a thank-you for helping him get a scholarship to OSU in the first place. 

Things got contentious ... but police tell TMZ Sports no one was arrested and Annie eventually left without incident. 

So, what will happen with the rings? Both sides believe they have a valid claim to them. Sounds like Eli will have to personally get involved to help work things out. 

We reached out to Eli and Annie for comment -- so far, no word back. 

Donald Trump Giving Robert Kraft the Bird on TV?!!

9/24/2017 3:41 PM PDT

Donald Trump is no master of subtlety ... 'cause it DEFINITELY looks like he just gave New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft the finger on national television.

A reporter asked Trump Sunday what he made of his friend, Kraft, releasing a statement that was -- in no shortage of words -- clearly anti-Trump, at least in this case. Trump said he thinks Kraft's ideas are disrespectful to the country ... then wiped his brow with his middle finger. 

Kraft released a statement Sunday saying he was "deeply disappointed" by the tone of Trump's comments earlier this week -- ya know, how owners should fire the "sons of bitches" who kneel in protest, and that fans should boycott the NFL if players keep doing it.

Trump also said he hadn't been tuning in to the actual games Sunday ... even though he was tweeting about NFL-National Anthem related matters all day.

Tom Brady Locks Arms for National Anthem ... Trump Approves

9/24/2017 11:51 AM PDT

Tom Brady seems to be on the fence about showing respect for his country but also being united with his teammates against Trump -- so he's doing both ... and the Prez is down.

Tom was seen locking arms with a teammate Sunday during the National Anthem before his game against the Texans ... but he also had his right hand over his heart. 

The dynamic is interesting -- lots of NFL teams reacted during their Sunday games to Trump's comments about players kneeling and how owners and coaches should fire anyone doing it ... some knelt, some dodged, others linked up in solidarity. Tom chose the latter.

Here's the kicker ... Trump just commented on the arm locking, and he seems to prefer it as opposed to kneeling. The question -- did he do it just because Tom got involved?

The Patriots' fans, on the other hand, didn't take too kindly to the perceived protest of the National Anthem. 

Another installment in the Trump/Brady saga ... more to come, we're sure.

Pittsburgh Steelers Skip National Anthem ... Before Bears Game

9/24/2017 9:47 AM PDT
Breaking News

1:00 PM PT -- The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans have followed the Steelers' lead ... and have both announced they will not be on the sidelines for the National Anthem prior to their game.Steelers coach Mike Tomlin just announced his team won't be on the field for the National Anthem before their game against the Bears ... saying "we're not gonna be divided by anything said by anyone."

While he doesn't mention Donald Trump specifically, it's clear Tomlin is firing back at the president's call to fire the "sons of bitches" who kneel during the anthem.

The decision to stay in the locker rooms is "not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from this circumstance," Tomlin says.

Around 20 Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars players took a knee prior to their game in London earlier today ... with many other teams sharing plans to show signs of solidarity.

Jim Brown Blasts Parents of 8-Year-Old Football Protesters ... 'Exploitation'

9/24/2017 12:35 AM PDT
EXCLUSIVE

Jim Brown tells TMZ Sports he's got a big problem with the 8-year-old football team that took a knee during the national anthem this week ... saying, "I thought that was exploitation."

The NFL legend has previously spoken out against Colin Kaepernick's national anthem demonstration and feels the kids who emulated him in Illinois on Sept. 17 were manipulated by coaches and parents. 

"I don't personally do anything against my country, against my flag, against my national anthem," Brown said during an outing in Beverly Hills. 

"I work out the problems that we have and I try to contribute to the solution. I don't ever disrespect the flag."

For the record, the coach of the youth football team says the idea to kneel came from the players as a way to support protests in St. Louis over the not-guilty verdict in the case of a cop who shot and killed a black man. 

There's more to the clip ... Brown also weighs in on the NFL's handling of the Ezekiel Elliott situation -- telling us he believes the league is "really trying to do the right thing."

He also says Zeke will be okay because Jerry Jones has his back

NFL Commish Roger Goodell Show Some Respect, Mr. Prez

9/23/2017 6:48 AM PDT

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell clapped back at President Trump Saturday morning, saying he shows an utter lack of respect for the league ... adding the Prez just doesn't have a clue.

Goodell is reacting to Trump's tirade Friday night, where he goaded NFL owners to fire those "son of a bitch" players who kneel during the National Anthem.

The Commish said, "The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month."

Goodell goes on, "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."

Trump urged fans attending games to walk out of the stadium if a player kneels during the N.A.

It'll be interesting to see what happens at the games this weekend.

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