Dr. Ashish Jha There's No Clear Science to Back Mask Mandate ... But Vax Up, Delta is Serious!!!

STOP CATERING TO THE UNVAXXED
TMZ.com

Dr. Ashish Jha believes COVID vaccinated people are getting unnecessarily punished with mask mandates ... purely because of diehard anti-vaxxers -- and it could make push come to shove.

Brown University's Public Health School Dean joined "TMZ Live" Friday to discuss L.A. County's reinstated COVID-19 mask rule, which requires even fully vaxxed folks to mask up indoors.

Dr. Jha says the new mandate doesn't jibe with science -- as he points out, an office full of vaccinated people don't need masks ... even indoors.

However, as the Delta variant continues to spread among the unvaccinated -- and more than 97 percent of people hospitalized for COVID are unvaccinated -- experts also agree masks remain a wise precaution for everyone in certain settings.

So, therein lies the issue ... anyone who wants to wear a mask can wear one, but making it a requirement for everyone removes the incentive for the unvaccinated to get the shot.

Dr. Jha says the bottom line is people should get vaccinated because the Delta variant is no joke, and because it's the ONLY way to truly put the pandemic behind us.

Meanwhile, he says there's no good reason to punish those who've already done their part by getting the shot ... especially because they're much less at risk now.

Trevor Bauer Shows Up To L.A. Courtroom To Fight Assault Accuser's Allegations

Trevor Bauer and his attorney showed up to an L.A. courtroom Friday ... making it clear they're ready to fight the pitcher's assault accuser's allegations.

Bauer -- wearing a purple suit, pink shirt and tie -- showed up just after morning proceedings started. His accuser was also in court.

During the hearing -- which was scheduled in order to determine if a temporary restraining order against Bauer should turn into a permanent one -- Bauer's attorney said he wants to call 3 witnesses to help contest the restraining order.

Meanwhile, Bauer's accuser -- through her attorney -- said they would like to call around six witnesses to show why the restraining order should be granted.

The parties estimated a hearing on the matter would take around 2 days.

The hearing is expected to begin after a lunch break later Friday afternoon.

As we previously reported, Bauer's accuser got the temporary restraining order in late June ... after she said in court docs the MLB star was violent with her during two sexual encounters in April and May.

In the docs, the woman claimed Bauer choked her unconscious and punched her repeatedly ... leaving her with black eyes, bruises, scrapes and scratches.

The 30-year-old pitcher and his reps have denied the allegations ... claiming the incidents were part of entirely consensual sexual encounters.

Police and the MLB are conducting investigations into the claims. Bauer has not been arrested nor has he been charged.

It's unknown if Bauer plans on testifying during the hearing.

Story developing ...

'Outer Banks' Star Chase Stokes Dating a Costar? This Is How Madelyn and I Handle It ...

KEEPIN' IT PROFESSIONAL
TMZ.com

Dating costars tends to usually go south FAST but "Outer Banks" star Chase Stokes shares how he and his costar/girlfriend, Madelyn Cline, make it work. Take note, Hollywood.

We got Chase leaving the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" studio Thursday, and we were eager to find out how he and Madelyn manage to make their relationship thrive when so many costar relationships tend to flame out.

Fans of the popular Netflix show know Chase and Madelyn are each other's love interests on the show. Just a couple of months after it premiered in April 2020, Chase and Madelyn went public with their relationship ... and they've been inseparable ever since.

Season 2 drops next week, and the show's success is hugely dependent on cast chemistry -- which means Chase and Maddie dating could be risky business. What happens if the BF/GF thing doesn't work out???

Chase isn't worried ... he told us having a business-first approach helped them lay the foundation. And, if you think spending 10-15 hours with your significant other at work seems like a drag ... just wait 'til you hear from Chase why it's certainly not for him.

Chase also tells our photog it helps Maddie's an awesome person. Know what else helps? Singing your GF's praises for all to see and hear.

This guy's a pro. Way to score brownie points, Chase!!!

Report: Rick Dennison Vikings Coach Refuses COVID Vaccine ... Loses Job

NFL coach Rick Dennison is now no longer a member of the Minnesota Vikings staff ... and it's reportedly all 'cause the guy refused to take the COVID vaccine.

Dennison, according to ESPN, recently affirmed his decision to not get the shots ... and with the NFL rules making it nearly impossible for coaches to coach without them, he's now OUT in Minnesota.

The 63-year-old had been the Vikings' offensive line coach and run game coordinator ... working with the team since 2019.

If you weren't aware, the NFL made it mandatory this offseason for all Tier 1 staffers -- which includes coaches -- to get the vaccine in order to have direct contact with players in meeting rooms and on the field.

The league did allow exceptions -- saying valid medical or religious reasons would be considered -- but it's clear Dennison did not meet those standards.

ESPN reports Phil Rauscher, who was the team's assistant offensive line coach, will now fill for Dennison in 2021.

Dennison -- who's coached in the NFL since 1995 and helped Dalvin Cook blossom into one of the league's best rushers -- is believed to be the first NFL coach to leave his team over the league's vaccine rules.

The Vikings, meanwhile, are set to begin training camp next week and kick off their season in September.

Story developing ...

A-Rod Sliding Back into Single Life ... Yachts o' Fun in France!!!

Alex Rodriguez is moving on from Jennifer Lopez in an interesting way ... on a yacht with some bikini-clad women along the French Riviera.

The former MLB star's soaking up the sun and enjoying the water while vacationing in Saint-Tropez this week ... while showing off his buff bod and having some fun on a giant inflatable slide.

We haven't seen much of A-Rod recently, and though we know he's renting a summer house in the Hamptons -- not too far away from J Lo -- she's clearly NOT on his mind at the moment. Sources connected to Alex tell us the yacht adventure is to celebrate his upcoming 46th birthday, and the folks onboard with him are friends, family and A-Rod Corp employees ... no romantic hookups.

We'll say this ... Alex has some attractive friends and staffers.

Since their breakup, A-Rod's been more low-profile ... while J Lo's been out and about in multiple cities with her old flame, Ben Affleck. As we reported, she's been house-hunting in L.A., and Ben's come along for the ride -- plus, they've had some romantic dinner dates.

Hey, Jen's happy, and A-Rod -- fresh of buying the NBA's Timberwolves -- definitely looks happy. People move on.

'RHOSLC' Star Jen Shah Accused of Orchestrating Telemarketing Scheme ... She Claims Total Innocence

12:19 PM PT -- Shah's attorney, Priya Chaudhry, tells TMZ ... "The reality is -- she is totally innocent."

The lawyer calls the government's latest claim "absurd," and says it comes after a nearly decade-long investigation and a related trial in which Shah's name was never mentioned.

Chaudhry says ... "This is just their latest made-up allegation, and like all others, totally unsupported by evidence."

Jen Shah's fraud case just went from bad to worse, because the feds have lumped her into a group of suspects with "greater culpability" in the telemarketing scheme that allegedly targeted elderly people ... and accuse her of being one of the leaders of it.

According to new legal docs obtained by TMZ ... "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star is one of 6 people in the U.S. Attorney's "Tier A" category for the alleged crimes.

The prosecutor claims these people -- 2 of which have already been sentenced to 78 months and 60 months in prison in the case -- were more "senior participants" in the scheme and continued to participate in it even when they knew criminal charges could be coming.

The U.S Attorney says the Tier A suspects were "responsible for orchestrating the broader scheme" and that Shah specifically "obtained leads directly from lead sources and provided them to, among others, coaching sales floors operated in Utah and Nevada."

Shah and her assistant, Stuart Smith, are also accused of owning and operating a sales floor in Manhattan that was a major part of the alleged telemarketing scheme ... and Smith is in Tier A as well.

As we reported ... Shah was arrested in late March for allegedly targeting and scamming people -- "vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people" -- out of their money.

She pled not guilty and was released on strict conditions.

We reached out to Jen's attorney ... no word back.

Originally Published -- 10:32 AM PT

Kanye West Gets His Own Day in Atlanta ... Along with Award for Mom

Kanye West treated his fans to a one-of-a-kind experience at his "Donda" listening event, but he also received a couple gifts after the show ... including one honoring his late mother.

According to our sources ... the City of Atlanta presented the rapper a plaque backstage after his performance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Kanye was born in ATL, and the city officially proclaimed July 22 Kanye West Day.

On top of that, and perhaps more importantly to Kanye ... Kevin James -- President of ATL's HBCU, Morris Brown College -- was also on hand to give Ye a token of appreciation on behalf of his mom, Donda West, who taught at the school for nearly 2 decades and was Chair of the English Department.

The award presented to Kanye is called the Dr. Donda West Meritorious Service to Morris Brown College. Donda started her career at Morris Brown, which was founded in 1881 and is the only HBCU in Georgia founded by Black people.

As we reported ... Kanye revealed his new album, named after his mother, Thursday night in front of a huge crowd that included Kim Kardashian and their kids, along with Khloe.

Our sources say his family was with him when he received the awards backstage, and he got super emotional about it.

RETURN OF THE KINGS
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The listening event also included one major surprise at the very end -- a collab with Jay-Z.

Morgan Wallen I Meant to Use N-Word Playfully ... It's Ignorant and Wrong

IT'S PLAYFUL
ABC

Morgan Wallen says when he used the n-word after partying with his friends, he thought it was "playful" ... but he admits that's ignorant, and he now knows it's wrong.

The country music star gave his first interview about the scandal, the result of a video shot by a neighbor on January 31 in Nashville and obtained by TMZ ... showing Wallen casually dropping the slur while making fun of one of his friends.

Morgan tells Michael Strahan on "Good Morning America" ... he wasn't using the racial epithet in a derogatory manner, because he insists up until that point in his life he had never thought about it being wrong.

1/31/21
PROFANE GOODBYE
TMZ.com

He repeats he was simply ignorant about what it meant, but says he knows now ... after conversations with Black leaders.

Wallen admits he can't fully understand why it makes Black people so upset because he's not in their shoes ... but says he's done a lot of thinking and soul-searching about it, along with a 30-day stint in rehab.

Morgan may have stirred up one more controversy before he was done answering questions, too. He told Strahan "it would seem" that country music has a race problem ... but he hasn't thought about it too much.

As we've reported ... the country singer has mostly remained out of the public eye since the video came out, but has gotten back to performing a little in recent weeks.

The scandal has also not hurt his popularity much, and he's even won some awards despite it.

Kim Kardashian Attends Kanye's 'Donda' Album Event ... Family Support Stays Strong

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are going through a divorce, but they're still celebrating each other's milestones as a family ... including the release of his 10th studio album.

Kim and all 4 of their kids -- North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm -- are part of the large crowd Thursday night at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium to enjoy a listening event for Kanye's highly anticipated "Donda" album ... named after his late mother.

One thing is very clear, even though they're not together anymore, the former couple believes it's important to continue supporting one another in their lives and careers.

Along with Kim and the kiddos, Khloe's also in tow to show her support for Ye ... who she recently called her "brother for life."

As we reported ... the first sample we got from "Donda" came via a Beats by Dre commercial this week, featuring his track "No Child Left Behind" and track star Sha'Carri Richardson.

Kanye's 10th album is his first since going gospel in 2019 with "Jesus Is King" ... but it's expected to continue to have a religious theme. For his listening party, he gifted 5,000 tickets to faculty, staff and students from some Atlanta HBCUs.

As for him and Kim ... we broke the story in February that she filed for divorce after 7 years of marriage, but things have remained amicable. Kanye's since been linked to supermodel, Irina Shayk.

Alabama City Councilman Wife Fears He'll Be Shot for Hurling N-Word

THE RACIST OUTBURST

The wife of the Alabama politician who hurled the n-word at a city council meeting says they've been bombarded by threatening calls ... and they're living in fear of retaliation.

Nancy Mahler Bryant tells TMZ ... ever since her husband, John "Tommy" Bryant, went viral for blurting out the slur, she's been terrified someone is going to try to kill him and is worried about the rest of her family, too.

Nancy says they've received at least 400 calls to their home over the past few days from people all over the country who scream at them, call them racists and make threats.

ICYMI ... Bryant pointed at Veronica Freeman -- a Black councilwoman -- while asking if there's "a house n***er" in the room during a city council meeting.

She tells us Tommy always wears a bulletproof vest when he leaves the house, but he's also given her a pistol to have with her in case she needs to go somewhere ... or if someone tries to break into their home.

Nancy says, for now, she's not leaving the house though, and same goes for her 92-year-old mother who lives with them -- they aren't even letting her go outside to her garden over safety concerns.

She says they are also keeping the blinds closed all day for fear that if someone sees Councilman Bryant inside, they might try to shoot him.

As for Bryant ... he tells us the threats have him a little worried. However, he's steadfast he did nothing wrong in saying the n-word, and would not apologize for "doing what is right."

As we reported ... Tommy claims he was justified in shouting the epithet, because he was simply repeating something Mayor Wayman Newton, who is Black, allegedly said in a previous meeting.

Cleveland Guardians Tom Hanks Unveils New MLB Handle "To Unite As One Family"

CHANGE IS COMING
Cleveland Indians

Cleveland pulled out the big guns to unveil its MLB team's new name, drafting none other than Tom Hanks to roll out ... the Cleveland Guardians!!!

A slick new video announced the name change -- which takes effect next season -- with Hanks handling the voiceover, explaining the new name is intended to unite fans "as one family, one community."

The old name, of course, had been trashed for years for being divisive and offensive to Indigenous people.

The new name is linked to a couple of local celebs -- 2 statues on the city's Hope Memorial Bridge, which is right near the team's Progressive Field. Those were built as "guardians of traffic" to symbolize progress in transportation.

The MLB name is more about progress for the city and the team, but like anything else new ... haters gonna hate. Reaction to the Guardians name and logo -- a "G" with a baseball, in the same font as the old name -- is mixed. At best.

That's alright ... Cleveland's used to it.

One odd twist, though, the team's Twitter account still has the old name (they are in the middle of a season) -- but it made for an awkward sight when they dropped the video announcement.

Sen. James Lankford Ben & Jerry Must Pay for Israel Stance ... But Chick-fil-A 👍🏽 With Me!!!

CHILL OUT, BEN & JERRY'S
TMZ.com

Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is its prerogative, but it also means people can decide to stop buying B&J's ... so says Senator James Lankford.

The GOP Congressman from Oklahoma made headlines this week calling for a boycott of the famed ice cream brand in his state due to its boycott of Israel ... but he tells us the company actually did this to itself.

As he explains ... Oklahoma has a law in place that says if companies boycott Israel, the state won't do business with them. Taking it one step further, though, Lankford's suggested the general public should also give up Ben & Jerry's.

What's interesting ... Sen. Lankford doesn't consider his call to cancel B&J's a "cancel culture" situation -- instead, he says it's a human rights issue.

However, you gotta see his response when we bring up the very similar situation with Chick-fil-A. As you know, some states want to ban the fast-food chain because of its owner's track record on LGBTQ+ issues -- which most would say is also about "human rights."

Apparently not Lankford, who says Chick-fil-A is getting attacked for its "corporate values" ... while Ben & Jerry's is trying to be "political." 🤔

Keyshia Cole Breaks Silence on Mom's Death ... 'Can't Really Even Find The Words'

Keyshia Cole is speaking out for the first time since her mother's tragic death ... sharing what she loved about her mom and what she will miss the most now that she's gone.

Cole posted a series of photos with Frankie Lons Thursday with a lengthy caption to honor her late mother. She opens with, "This is so hard man. Can’t really even find the words. SMH. I honestly don’t even know how to feel. You can never prepare for something like this... Ever!!! but you will be missed."

While Keisha and Frankie weren't close while the singer was growing up -- she was raised by friends and relatives -- the two connected later in life, and their relationship was profiled on "Keyshia Cole: My New Life."

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In Keisha's tribute to Frankie, she says, "I created this post to show my love and appreciation for your life and I would like to thank my fans + supporters, shooot your supporters and fans, for being here with us during these hard times, and the love that you all have for us.....the love for all your children was definitely felt."

It appears the family is organizing to have a service for Frankie in the near future with all of her kids in attendance, Keisha says, "When u said all you want is to have ALL OF YOUR CHILDREN IN ONE PLACE, AT ONE TIME meant the most to you, And I’m completely down to do that for you."

TMZ broke the story ... Frankie died at home in Oakland on Sunday, her birthday. Her son, Sam, told us she died of an overdose after a decades-long struggle with addiction.

Frankie was just 61.

Kanye West HOV & Ye Reunite!!! ... For Song on 'DONDA'

The seemingly impossible just happened at the end of Kanye's album release event in Atlanta ... Jay-Z hopped on a track, when many believed the two were still enemies.

Kanye played "DONDA" for tens of thousands of fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Thursday. West wore all red -- a look he made famous back in 2010 -- and danced, paced and at times stood totally still while the tracks blasted through stadium speakers.

The album had audio snippets from Kanye's late mother, Donda West, throughout and featured a ton of features -- including Travis Scott, Lil Baby, Don Toliver, Vory and Playboi Carti.

RETURN OF THE KINGS
TMZ.com

However, it wasn't until the final track where the biggest stunner of the night came ... a song with Jay-Z. What's more, Jay's producer and engineer, Young Guru, tweeted, "HOV did the verse today!!!! At 4pm" ... a possible reason the event's start was delayed almost 2 hours.

If you haven't followed along over the years, the feud between Kanye and HOV came to light in 2014 when Jay and Beyonce didn't attend Kim and Kanye's wedding. Things seemed to spiral after that, including public comments Kanye made during a show in 2016 when he lashed out at Jay-Z for not checking in on his family after Kim was robbed at gunpoint in Paris.

WORKIN' THE CROWD
TMZ.com

From there ... Jay-Z dissed Kanye on his "4:44" album and Kanye eventually split from Jay's streaming service, Tidal. The two hadn't collabed or been publicly cordial up until Thursday.

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Kanye and Jay-Z's collab album "Watch the Throne" will celebrate its 10-year anniversary next month ... and the new track Kanye released already has fans begging for a sequel.

Derek Jeter On Signing Pettitte's Son ... Kid's Got Good Genes!!!

MAYBE HE'S BORN WITH IT
Adam Glyn

Does a good fastball run in Pettitte blood? Derek Jeter is certainly hoping so ... 'cause the Marlins exec said he signed Andy Pettitte's son this week because he's banking on the kid's DNA!!

Jeets spoke about the Marlins' deal with Jared Pettitte out in NYC to Adam Glyn ... explaining, with a little bit of his tongue in his cheek, that he inked Andy's boy 'cause of his legendary pops' skillset.

"He's got good genes," Jeter said wryly when asked why he thought his longtime Yankees teammate's son deserved a chance in the Miami org.

Of course, the younger Pettitte is much more than just Andy's kid ... he's got a live arm -- even though he did record a 5.81 ERA in 13 games at Dallas Baptist University this year.

"I do model a lot of my game after [my dad]," Jared told YES Network earlier this month. "I really have to rely a lot on command and just kind of the movement on my pitches."

Jared did not get picked in the 2021 MLB draft ... but Jeter was still able to get him on board as an undrafted free agent this week nonetheless.

And, when asked if he was emotional about being reunited with another Pettitte after having so much success with Andy in New York ... Jeter said he's taking a wait-and-see approach for that.

"Not yet," Jeter said. "We got to get him down there [in the minor leagues] first!"

No pressure, kid.

U.S. Gymnast Mary Lou Retton 'Memba Her?!

West Virginia athlete Mary Lou Retton was only 16 years old when she became a household name after she made the American gymnastics team and competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics Games held in Los Angeles ... where MLR took home the gold medal in individual all-around, as well as two silver and two bronze medals.

Retton was part of a power-packed squad of young gymnasts including Pamela Bileck, Tracee Talavera, Kathy Johnson, Michelle Dusserre and Julianne McNamara ... who worked together to win the silver medal in the team all-around.

Guess what Mary Lou Retton looks like now at 53 years old!

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