NFL's Darius Leonard Claims Racism At Chipotle Restaurant Launches Investigation

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I'M SICK OF THIS!

5:45 PM PT -- The chairman and CEO of Chipotle has already launched an investigation into the incident at the location in Florence, SC.

Brian Niccol tells TMZ Sports, "We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind and we have suspended our manager while we conduct a thorough investigation."

Niccol says he has personally reached out to Darius -- "and I’m committed to ensuring the appropriate action is taken once the investigation concludes."

Indianapolis Colts superstar linebacker Darius Leonard claims he was wrongly kicked out of a Chipotle restaurant in South Carolina ... insisting it's all because he's Black.

The 24-year-old All-Pro says he was eating with his family Thursday -- "3 other Black guys and a mixed woman" -- when another patron (who is white) complained to management that Leonard was "verbally abusing him."

Leonard says the allegation is a straight-up lie -- but the restaurant manager walked over to his table and treated him like a criminal anyway ... booting him from the restaurant and threatening to call the police.

Leonard says what really pisses him off is the white patron got the benefit of the doubt without a shred of evidence -- and says this is the type of crap Black people have to deal with all the time.

"We’re talking about Black Lives Matter and for the guy to look at us and lie and laugh in our face as we walk out and the manger ... just come up here and just basically kick us out of Chipotle?! And, we felt like he was very disrespectful and that’s the white privilege that we are talking about.”

"We are tired of this," Leonard says ... "I'm telling you what I go through as a Black man in America. Ya'll don't understand what I go through."

"Ya'll see the police killing us. Ya'll seeing all the injustices that we go through. I live it. Day in and day out. And, I'm f*cking tired of it. Yes, I'm upset. I'm tired of it."

We reached out to the Chipotle where the incident took place but they offered no comment. We also reached out to the corporate office but so far no word back.

Originally published -- 2:57 PM PT

Alabama, Nick Saban Powerful Black Lives Matter Vid 'We Can't Be Silent'

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"In this moment in history, we can't be silent."

Pretty amazing video from the Alabama football team -- with Nick Saban teaming up with his players to deliver a powerful "Black Lives Matter" message.

The video was written by Bama's offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood -- and features players like QB Mac Jones, Emil Ekiyor and Evan Neal.

"We are a team. Black, white brown," the players say in the video. "Together we are a family. We are brothers."

"On the field we are relentless. We are strong. We are conquerors. But we are human beings first."

"And in this moment in history, we can’t be silent. We must speak up for our brothers and sisters, for our sons and daughters."

The idea to share the message came after the players met with Stephen A. Smith and Condoleezza Rice ... who inspired the team to use their platform for good, according to al.com.

The message continued ... "When we see our families, our neighbors, our classmates subjected to violence, we recognize the fear in their eyes."

"We believe the solutions to our challenges are within us. We choose to listen. We choose to hear, and understand other’s perspectives."

"Let’s listen. Let’s unite. Because all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter."

Roll Tide!

Antonio Brown Training With HS QB For NFL Comeback 'He Hasn't Lost Any Gears'

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DYNAMIC DUO

Forget Big Ben and Tom Brady ... Antonio Brown has turned to a high school quarterback to gear up for his NFL return!!

Meet Peter Zamora, a 17-year-old rising junior, who tells TMZ Sports he's been working with Brown for the past few months to help the embattled wide receiver get back in the league.

WORKIN' WITH BEST!
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As for how Pete got that role ... the story is wild -- Pete says he stumbled on a workout with Brown and other NFL stars like Jerry Jeudy and Deshaun Watson at a Florida field back in March.

The Deerfield Beach HS QB tells us they saw his big right arm ... invited him to Brown's gym -- and just a few weeks later, he ended up being one of AB's personal QBs.

Zamora says he throws passes regularly to Brown now ... working out for a couple hours at a time and tossing somewhere between 50-to-75 passes to the former NFL All-Pro.

Pete tells us he hasn't seen AB lose a single step despite not playing in the NFL since September ... and says the guy still belongs on a pro field.

"He hasn't lost any gears," Zamora said. "He's still fast as ever and he's still a top receiver in the league. I feel like a team should definitely sign him."

As for off-the-field, Pete says Brown's been but nothing but a gentleman to him ... adding, "I think he's a well-spoken guy. A very encouraging, very positive guy."

By the way, Pete tells us there is no compensation for the work ... but colleges are starting to notice his game a bit now -- telling us even Brown's former school, Central Michigan, is starting to recruit him!!

Lane Kiffin, Mike Leach To Mississippi Officials Drop Rebel Symbol from State Flag!

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Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach were part of a group of nearly 50 people who met with the Mississippi state legislature on Thursday ... calling for the Confederate symbol to be removed from the state flag immediately!

Kiffin is the head football coach at Ole Miss. Leach runs the program at Mississippi State -- but both are on the same page when it comes to the Confederate battle flag image on the MS state flag.

Other coaches and athletic directors from other colleges in Mississippi were also in attendance on Thursday -- all hoping they can persuade lawmakers to remove the image for good.

Earlier this week, Miss. State star RB Kylin Hill said he would no longer represent the state if the flag wasn't changed -- and other players have echoed his statement.

After Kiffin attended Thursday's conference, Hill said the move "Put a smile on my face."

Kiffin spoke with ESPN about the decision to attend the event ... saying, "We removed the flag from our campus five years ago, so we've made it clear that it doesn't represent who we are at Ole Miss."

"Today is another big step in doing our part to move the state forward and ensure a more welcoming environment for everyone. This is extremely important to me and to our players. Time to change!"

Waiting for your permission to load the Facebook Video.

In related news, the SEC and NCAA both announced conference championships and other postseason games will not take place in Mississippi until a change is made to the state flag.

House Speaker Philip Gunn seemed to get the message on Thursday ... saying, "The image of our state is at stake here. The nation is watching. They want to know what we stand for."

Report: Colin Kaepernick 'Multiple Teams' Interested ... In Signing Quarterback

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Could Colin Kaepernick's NFL return be as few as a couple weeks away???

The answer could be yes ... because "multiple" teams and at least one head coach have legitimate interest in signing the QB before the start of the season, according to NFL Network reporter Michael Silver.

The plugged-in journalist said on the league's owned NFL Network on Wednesday, "I have talked to one head coach who is absolutely interested" in Kaepernick.

The holdup? Silver says it's all about the coronavirus pandemic ... and the lack of the ability for teams to physically workout Colin for a tryout at their facilities.

"Colin Kaepernick, who has not played since 2016, finds himself in the same situation that Cam Newton and Jadeveon Clowney do," Silver said, "which is a team that would be ready to sign him would want to work him out."

Of course, Kaepernick did famously hold his own workout last year -- which was on video ... but Silver says teams would still like a front-row view this summer before putting pen to a new contract.

The NFL reporter adds, "There could be a chance that something happens when teams are able to get that part of it done."

Unclear when teams will be allowed to host free agents for tryouts ... but training camps do open July 28 -- so seems that date is nearing.

UF's Lawrence Wright 'Gator Bait' Chant Creator Slams Officials ... Don't Ban Cheer!!!

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THE CHANT'S NOT THE PROBLEM
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Lawrence Wright -- the former Univ. of Florida football star who created the famous "Gator Bait" chant -- is urging school officials to reconsider the cheer's ban ... telling TMZ Sports it's not racist.

Back after the 1996 season, fresh off a national championship, Wright ingrained the chant in Gator fans' minds during a celebration ... and at nearly every UF event since, it had become a staple.

But, in a statement released by the school last week ... the University president said there will now be a ban on the chant over its racist ties -- effective immediately.

As for why ... if you're unfamiliar, the term "Gator Bait" was coined by white men who would take Black babies and use them as "bait" to draw out alligators on hunting expeditions. Horrible.

"Gator bait" was later used as a racial slur toward Black people for that reason.

In his statement, the school's president wrote, "there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase."

When we spoke with Wright about it all ... he told us he disagrees with the university's decision -- and is now trying to have a sitdown with the president to attempt to change his mind.

IT'S A DIFFERENT CONTEXT
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Wright says even though he's aware of the awful images associated with the "gator bait" term ... he claims his chant has absolutely nothing to do with that at all.

"We're only talking about collegiate things," Wright said.

Wright added he wishes school officials had approached him about the subject before making the call ... and he tells us he's ready for a meeting on the issue ASAP.

Reggie Bush Teases Heisman Trophy Return 'I've Heard Conversations'

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Could the 2005 Heisman Trophy officially belong to Reggie Bush once again!?!

The USC legend stopped short of saying that this week ... but the former superstar running back did acknowledge he's hearing rumors it might actually go down!!!

"I don't want to put nothing out there," Bush said on Tuesday's "The Pat McAfee Show" ... "You know, I've heard conversations and things."

Of course, Bush was just reinstated to USC after he was banished for 10 years for accepting improper benefits during his time as a Trojan -- and many have wondered if his relinquished Heisman Trophy could follow suit.

For now, the people who are in charge of the award say nothing has changed ... but Bush's reaction when McAfee asked about a possible return of the honor sure makes it seem like something's in the works.

"I don't want to, uh --" Bush said sheepishly, before adding ... "if it's not here, it's not here!"

Bush also revealed a cool story about his trophy ... saying after he was busted and forced to give up the award, Heisman officials asked Vince Young to take it.

But, Bush claims Vince turned it down ... and he praised the hell out of him for doing so.

"That’s why I appreciate Vince because even in that moment and even in that time, he wasn’t a sucker," Bush said. "Period. He didn’t go for whatever they were trying to bring his way, and I appreciate him for that because that’s real. That’s real love."

Reggie added the gesture sometimes gives him chills ... saying, "he had every right, every right to say, ‘Yeah, give me that Heisman.’ And he didn’t. So, Vince showed me the kind of love that even some of the people closest to me didn’t show."

Ben Roethlisberger I've Battled Porn & Booze Addictions ... 'We All Fall Short'

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Ben Roethlisberger says he's fought both porn and alcohol addictions in the past ... but credits his relationship with his religion for helping him cut the habits.

The Pittsburgh Steelers QB made the revelations at the "ManUp Pittsburgh" conference over the weekend ... giving a pump-up speech to people who are going through similar struggles.

"People don't realize all the time that us athletes, we're human," Roethlisberger said. "We sin like everyone else. I am no different. We make mistakes. We get addicted to things. We sin."

Big Ben continued, "And I think sometimes we get put on this pedestal where we can't make mistakes. We do. I've fallen as short as anybody."

Roethlisberger -- who's been in the NFL since 2004 -- says his past transgressions include vices like booze and porn ... adding, "which makes me then not the best husband, not the best father, not the best Christian I can be."

But, 38-year-old Ben says he was able to re-find religion after meeting his wife -- whom he married in 2011 -- and says he believes he's now a better person because of it.

"My message to the men out there that are watching this is, we all fall short," Roethlisberger said. "That's what happens. But it's OK. You can get back into the good graces."

Roethlisberger also spoke about his recent elbow surgery ... and said if it had happened earlier in his career, he's not sure he could have handled it.

Though Ben now says he's being patient with the whole process ... and is confident he'll return to form sooner than later.

"Now that I know what it's about, it was easy for me to say, 'God, it's in your hands, I'm going to go train my butt off to get out there and whatever you have for me, I'm ready.'"

Adrian Peterson Gunning For Four More Years In NFL ... 'Why Not?!'

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THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
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In 2024 ... 39-year-old Adrian Peterson will STILL be running over defenders?!?!

The future Hall of Famer says he believes that's entirely possible ... telling TMZ Sports he's gunning to play FOUR more years in the NFL!!

"Man, why not four more years?" AD says. "Why not?!"

Of course, Peterson has never made it a secret he wants to play a whole lot longer than most running backs ever do ... but four more years is a big goal even for him.

Remember, back after the 2018 season, Peterson told us he only wanted to go "maybe two or three more years."

A LOT LEFT IN THE TANK
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But, when we spoke with the Redskins star tailback over the weekend, he made it clear he wants to carry the rock until he physically can't anymore.

"I don't want to ever be in a position where I look back and say, 'Man, I should have played two more years,'" Peterson says. "'I should of played another year.' I want to enjoy it."

As for why, Adrian says he wants a Super Bowl ring badly ... but Peterson is only about 4,000 yards away from breaking Emmitt Smith's all-time rushing mark.

Seems with four more years of carries ... Emmitt might need to start sweating now??

By the way, we also spoke with Peterson about the Redskins prospects for the 2020 season ... and ya gotta hear how fired up he is for Washington's roster this year.

Cornell Football Freshman Recruit Kicked Off Team Used N-Word In Snapchat

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1:06 PM PT -- Cornell Athletic Director Andy Noel tells TMZ Sports the program was informed about the video Sunday afternoon ... and confirmed Panza will no longer play for the Big Red.

"After viewing it, head football coach, David Archer, made the decision to rescind the individual’s offer to join the team in the fall," Noel says.

"There is no room for this behavior in Cornell Athletics."

A Cornell University freshman football recruit has reportedly been dropped from the team after using the n-word in a Snapchat video over the weekend.

Nate Panza -- a running back from Morristown, New Jersey -- was shown in a video with high school classmates ... when he is heard offscreen saying, "f**k that n***a."

Panza immediately told the man capturing the convo to not make the video public ... saying, "Oh wait, you can’t put that one up. You can’t post that."

The friend behind the camera then references George Floyd, who was killed at the hands of cops in May ... and Panza criticizes him for the comment.

"Now that’s f**ked up. Okay, you can't say that."

The video spread like wildfire on social media ... and several black student organizations at Cornell called for the school to take action.

Panza -- who signed his national letter of intent in February -- is no longer a part of the Big Red's football program as a result of the video, the Cornell Daily Sun reports.

"I am heartbroken I have hurt people; those I know and those I do not. I take full responsibility for my actions," Panza told the Sun.

"I do not believe that my language that night aligns with who I have tried to be as a person, the values I live by or the manner in which I have conducted myself as an athlete."

Panza continued ... "I plan to better educate myself on the issues of racism and injustice in America, as I want to be part of the solution and not the problem."

"The label 'racist' is not something I can live with and I will work to prove that every day for the rest of my life. It is my humble hope that I will come out of this incident as a better ally, better friend and better person."

Panza says he hopes to get a second chance with Cornell ... but the school has yet to publicly address the video.

We've reached out to Cornell for comment -- so far, no word back.

Originally Published -- 9:24 AM PT

Tom Izzo I Was 'Ignorant' To Oppose Kneeling ... 'I'm Still Learning'

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Michigan State legend Tom Izzo is admitting he was WRONG to be mad about Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protest ... saying George Floyd's death helped him understand what the movement was all about.

"Listen, I learn lessons too. And, I’m still learning at this age," 65-year-old Izzo said on 97.1 The Ticket on Tuesday.

"I talked to all those people to try to get a good feel. And, what I realized is, I wasn’t real happy with the Colin Kaepernick thing when it happened."

Izzo says he initially thought kneeling for the anthem was disrespectful to the flag ... but years later, he now knows what Kap was doing.

"And, yet, as I look back on it, how ignorant am I? Because that was a peaceful protest."

Izzo added he was "sickened" by Floyd's death last month ... saying, "It was real and it was disappointing, but it was disgusting."

"None of us know all the things that happen, but a human life is a human life and we’re treating it like it’s nothing."

Izzo isn't alone in switching his stance on the anthem -- NFL commish Roger Goodell recently apologized for how the league mishandled the kneeling protests ... and Drew Brees has also had a change of heart.

Old news is old news!
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