Dwight Howard 'I'm Not Gay'

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Dwight Howard says he's not gay -- despite allegations made against him in a lawsuit -- and claims the whole legal battle made him "never want to come outside again."

The NBA superstar appeared on 'Fair Game' on FS1 where he told Kristine Leahy, "I went through a situation last year that kind of just set me free."

Howard is referring to the lawsuit filed by Masin Elije -- who claimed he had a sexual relationship with Howard and claimed Howard threatened him with violence if he went public about it.  

Dwight has previously denied the allegations across the board -- but told Kristine that the whole case caused him tremendous amounts of emotional pain. 

"I'm not gay," Howard said when asked directly. 

Dwight says he received a lot of hate from people who THOUGHT he was gay -- and says he now understands why people are afraid to come out and be their true selves in public. 

Howard says he spent months reflecting on his life after the allegations went public -- and thought long and hard about how he wants to be remembered ... especially when it comes to his kids. 

As for the allegations, Howard is adamant he NEVER met the accuser and has no idea why the man would go to such lengths to lie about him. 

"It upset me because I didn't even know who the person was. Why would somebody who I've never met, never had any contact with make up a whole story about me?"

The entire interview with Dwight airs Wednesday on FS1. 

ScarJo I Should Be Allowed to Play Anyone ... Speaks Against PC Casting

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3:13 PM PT -- Scarlett Johansson is clarifying her remarks to As If, saying they were taken out of context and adding ..."I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody and Art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness. I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cisgender actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to." 

Scarlett Johansson appears to be backtracking on her feelings about withdrawing from a movie where she was playing a trans person ... now saying she outta be able to play whoever the hell she wants. 

ScarJo opened up about politically correct casting to As If magazine (without directly mentioning her now-debunked role in "Rub and Tug"), saying ... "You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job."

She added, "I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions," going on to say ... "I think society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do." 

Her thoughts on the issue are catching fire on social media (in a bad way) -- folks are tearing her apart for apparently believing she was perfect for the "Rub and Tug" role, with some folks calling her privileged and tone-deaf. 

Interestingly enough, Scarlett's been involved in other casting controversies as well -- including in 2017 when she starred in "Ghost in the Shell," which was originally written with an Asian protagonist when it debuted as a Japanese manga series.  

When she was called out for getting involved in that production, she apologized and said and she never wanted to feel like she was playing a character that was offensive to others. 

Fast-forward to 2018, when she pulled out of "Rub and Tug" and issued a mea culpa of sorts, implying she'd learned a lot from the trans community about the importance of casting trans actors in trans roles ... contradicting what her rep said earlier about non-trans actors playing trans people to critical acclaim.

Now, it seems like she's flip-flopping again ... and it ain't going well. Tell us how you really feel, ScarJo.

Nicki Minaj Pulls Out of Saudi Arabia Concert ... Human Rights Issues

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Nicki Minaj says she can't in her right conscience perform in Saudi Arabia later this month, so she's dropping out of the event ... due to personal concerns about human rights violations there.

The rapper made the announcement Tuesday, saying ... "After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest."

She added, "While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression."

Nicki was set to hit the stage there on July 18, but groups like the the Human Rights Foundation and others lobbied her to pull out in protest of the country's restrictive laws.

Women were only recently allowed to drive and attend sporting events in stadiums, but gender segregation is still a thing in Saudi Arabia. Same sex relations are also outlawed there.

Laverne Cox Lil Nas X Should Provide Inspiration ... To Closeted Hip-Hop Stars

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Laverne Cox is super impressed Lil Nas X has come out, and she says other closeted gay hip-hop stars should take his cue. 

We got Laverne and actress Angelica Ross in WeHo Friday night leaving Delilah, and at first Laverne seems a little confused ... whether Lil Nas X came out or just insinuated he was gay. Angelica explained and Laverne then launched into how awesome LNX has handled it.  

She also made it clear ... there are closeted hip-hop stars who are afraid to own their truth. She hopes they find the strength to follow in the footsteps of Lil Nas X, but only when they're ready.

She also loves the way LNX is handing trolls.  

G-Unit's Young Buck Lil Nas X Pic Was Nothin' But Love ... 50 is Just Trolling

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50 Cent tried shaming his former label mate, Young Buck, for once posing with Lil Nas X, but Buck's not falling for 50's homophobic antics.

Sources close to the former G-Unit MC tell TMZ ... Buck's photo with LNX -- which was posted back in June, well before Nas X came out -- wasn't meant to be anything more than fan appreciation. We're told Buck wanted to give the young rapper props for his newfound success. It wasn't a tease for a collab or anything. 

However, Fiddy decided to use Lil Nas' coming out as a chance to attack Buck. He reposted Buck's pic with the caption ... "New young Buck (Fresh Out the Barn) ft Little Nas X 🔥Coming July 4."

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

We're told Buck is unfazed by 50 Cent's attempt to diss and troll. Fact is, it's kinda old at this point, and Buck feels he's simply trying to drag him over a bogus contract from years ago.

As for how he feels about Nas X now that he's come out -- we're told Buck supports him as a person and an artist. Nothing has changed from the time he took the photo back in June with the rising star. 

Lil Nas X Coming Out Planned Weeks Before Big Announcement

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Lil Nas X had clearly been thinking about coming out as gay for a long time, and the best evidence of that is the cover of his debut album ... a cover that was in the works for weeks.

Lorenzo Sozzi, who designed the cover with the rapper, tells TMZ ... Lil Nas X had a vision of the art for the album -- the rapper leaving a dystopian world for a futuristic world -- so X actually put out an open call to artists to come up with his vision, and Sozzi is the one who nailed it.

Lil Nas had some edits, though, and sometime during the creative process ... he instructed Sozzi to add a rainbow flourish to one of the buildings on the album cover. Nas never told Sozzi why he wanted to add the rainbow, but he was adamant about it.

Now, here's what's really interesting ... Nas released the album cover art on June 15 -- 2 weeks ago, but he didn't come out until June 30. Looking back, it's clear, at the very least, the cover of X's "7" was a big clue he was gay, but he never explained further until his Glastonbury concert this past Sunday.

TMZ broke the story ... Nas was so moved by the crowd -- 180,000 strong -- showing him so much love, he went back stage, picked up his phone, and told the world he is gay.

The funny thing is ... when Nas came out he joked, "deadass thought i made it obvious" because of the rainbow -- yet no one picked up on it.

Irv Gotti Rap Ready to Accept Lil Nas X's Sexuality ... Who Cares He's Gay?!?

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Lil Nas X is not going to be ostracized by the rap community simply for coming out ... at least according to record executive and producer Irv Gotti, who says times are a changin'.

We got the Murder Inc. Records honcho in New York City and ask him about the industry's reaction to the rapper announcing he's gay. Irv tells us it ain't that big of a deal ... not these days, anyway. 

As we first reported ... the 20-year-old "Old Town Road" sensation felt inspired to tell the world his truth Sunday night after performing in front of a MASSIVE crowd in England, going on social media on the last day of Pride month to announce he's gay. 

Irv, who's produced tons of hits for hip-hop titans over the past 25 years, says it would've been much harder for Lil Nas X to come out back in the day ... but now, it's not too shocking.

Check out our clip ... Irv explains why rap is finally ready to embrace Nas for who he is.

WNBA's Brittney Griner Praises Lil Nas X for Coming Out ... 'Takes a Lot of Bravery'

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WNBA superstar Brittney Griner says it's "AWESOME" that Lil Nas X has come out as gay -- telling TMZ Sports, "I think it's real big!"

28-year-old Griner is openly gay -- she's engaged to longtime girlfriend Cherelle Watson -- and knows first hand how tough it can be to come out when you're a big star under the microscope. 

But, the 5-time WNBA All-Star says she's especially impressed with the "Old Town Road" artist for not letting homophobes and negative gay stereotypes (especially in the hip-hop world) stop him from going public about his sexuality. 

"I just think it's awesome he did that," Griner says ... "takes a lot of bravery."

Griner says it's 2019 and people should be able to love who they want to love and be who they want to be without fear of a backlash ... and she thinks Lil Nas X is helping to achieve that goal. 

"I think it's real big ... kudos to him."

Lil Nas X came out via a social media post on June 30 -- the last day of Gay Pride month -- and we're told he was inspired to do so after such a positive experience performing at the Glastonbury Music Festival in England, which is known for its inclusivity. 

'L&HH' Star Milan Christopher Lil Nas X Coming Out ... Will Save LGBT Lives

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Lil Nas X coming out is going to have a ripple effect that will save the lives of LGBT youth across the country ... so says Milan Christopher.

We got the ex-"Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood" star in Los Angeles and ask his thoughts on the rapper revealing he's gay. Milan says it's going to be an inspiration for kids and teens who are being bullied because of their sexuality. 

TMZ broke the story ... the 20-year-old "Old Town Road" rapper became inspired to share his truth with the world on Sunday after performing with Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus in front of a HUGE crowd in England, hopping on Twitter on the final day of Pride Month to say he's gay. 

Milan -- who is gay -- tells us Nas' surprise announcement is going to be a life saver, because he says the suicide rates for LGBT teens are through the roof, and a successful celeb coming out as gay will send a strong message to kids. 

Check out or clip ... Milan explains why 'OTR' is now an aha moment for some in our society.

Lil Nas X Appears to Come Out as Gay In Pride Month Post

Lil Nas X -- who has skyrocketed to fame this year -- just surprised a ton of fans by seemingly coming out as gay.

Nas made the not-so-subtle announcement Sunday ... saying, "some of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gone fwm no more. but before this month ends i want y’all to listen closely to c7osure."

The rapper then spent the next few hours replying to and retweeting fans who responded to his post. At one point, he shared a photo of the cover of his EP, "7," which shows Nas on a horse and looking at a city skyline in the distance.

Nas posted the pic with the caption, "deadass thought I made it obvious" with a zoom-in on one of the buildings that features a rainbow pattern.

Nas has had an incredible 2019 ... his "Old Town Road" has been No. 1 for more than 10 weeks, he's also collaborated with Cardi B and just performed at Glastonbury. 

NYC Pride 2019 Draws Celebs Far & Wide ... 50 Years After Stonewall

It's been 50 years since the Stonewall riots, and NYC made sure to honor the historic moment in LGBT history by taking to the streets ... including the rich and famous.

Tons of celebs were out in force Sunday as they celebrated the final day of Pride Month, taking part in the city's annual parade ... but this time, with extra gusto. The Stonewall riots marked a turning point in gay rights, and Hollywood's finest honored that with their best outfits.

Just a small sample of the stars that made appearances throughout the Big Apple -- Wendy Williams (who looked absolutely fabulous), Andy Cohen and a bunch of the ladies from different 'Real Housewives' shows, Billy Porter, Miranda Lambert, Teyana Taylor, Donatella Versace, ... and many, many more. 

Hell, even some local politicians showed face for the big day as well -- New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, was out there showing support, as was New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

So far, there's no reports of any trouble on the ground there in New York -- nothing but good vibes and marchers on the streets. Good ... let's keep it that way. 

Happy Pride!

'Will & Grace' Creator Stonewall Riots, Ellen DeGeneres Made Our Show Possible

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"Will & Grace" creator Max Mutchnick has a deep, personal connection with Stonewall -- it's the first gay bar he ever dared to fearfully enter, and it now has just come full circle with his own children.

We got Max Thursday afternoon at LAX ...he had just returned from New York, where he took his children to visit the site where the gay rights movement began 50 years ago today ... when a violent clash erupted between patrons and law enforcement.

Max credits the people who stood up for their rights for his own successful journey, which of course includes his transformative TV sitcom. But, with all the progress, there's one person he says is most responsible for "Will and Grace" ... Ellen DeGeneres.

By the way ... Max and Ellen have another connection ... a few years back he sold his spectacular Bev Hills home to Ellen.

Max isn't the only one who credits Ellen. Megan Mullally has said as much ... telling Ellen earlier this year it was her show that inspired "Will & Grace" and cleared the path for it to air.

Madonna Pulse Survivor Slams 'Control' Vid ... Wonders Where Her Head is

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Madonna's music video portraying a mass shooting at a nightclub contains a strong and necessary message, but the way she delivered it is totally out of touch ... according to a Pulse survivor.

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Brandon Wolf tells TMZ ... he appreciates what Madonna tried to do in her graphic new vid for "God Control" -- and even thinks more artists should follow her lead -- but he's got serious issues with the choices she made and the timing of the release.

His main problem -- he says Madonna didn't reach out to any of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims, survivors or their families for input or to see how her new video might affect them. Although it's evident her vid is referencing the 2016 mass shooting, Brandon points out she never acknowledges it or pays tribute to the 49 people who were killed.

Wolf also accuses the singer of being self-absorbed and using Pulse as a prop, and says it's not the first time she's done so. He points to the tweet she shared right after the shooting, which also didn't directly mention the incident ... but did include her famous pic kissing Britney Spears.

Brandon also wonders what took Madonna so long to speak out about the Pulse incident, considering it happened over 3 years ago. He does hope she's genuinely woke about the gun control issue -- as her lyrics say -- but he's having a hard time completely buying it. 

BTW -- Wolf tells us he hasn't actually watched the shooting scene in her new video because he doesn't want to relive the experience, but he's seen still frames. As we reported, another Pulse survivor says watching the video was very traumatic.

Team USA Coach 'We All Support Megan Rapinoe' ... After Trump Comments

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Team USA soccer star Megan Rapinoe is getting major support in the locker room after going after President Trump ... with her coach, Jill Ellis, saying the entire team has Megan's back. 

Of course, Trump tweeted about Rapinoe on Wednesday ... lashing back at Megan after the co-captain said there's no way she would go to the "f*cking White House" if USA wins the World Cup

Trump told Rapinoe he'd extend an invite anyway -- and advised her to focus on winning before trashing him in public. 

Rapinoe and Ellis addressed the media on Thursday ... where Rapinoe dug in on her anti-Trump stand -- saying, "I stand by the comments that I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with the exception of the expletive"

"My mom will be very upset about that."

When asked if Rapinoe's comments have been a distraction to the team, Ellis shot that down -- and said, "We all support Megan, she knows that."

Ellis added, "We know we have each other's backs in there. I think for our players, there is only one purpose, one mission that we're here. Comments, media, whatever, it's always been something that I think we can block out pretty easily."

Rapinoe's teammate, Ali Krieger, backed up Megan on social media -- saying she'll "sit this one out as well. I don’t support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants & our most vulnerable."

Team USA is set to play France on Friday in the Round of 8. 

Prince William I'd Be Fine with My Kids Being Gay ... But I'd Be Nervous Too

Prince William says he would be totally okay if any of his children are gay -- but at the same time ... he says he'd be somewhat concerned as well.

The Duke of Cambridge addressed the topic Wednesday while visiting the Albert Kennedy Trust in London -- where he was discussing a range of issues that affect LGBTQ youth. During the convo, someone asked Will how he would feel if any of his 3 kids ever came out?

Check out his answer ... it's interesting.

Wills makes it clear he'd fully support Charlotte, George or Louis if they came out publicly, saying, it's "absolutely fine by me." However, he adds that he'd also be "nervous" for them and what they'd have to potentially deal with as a Royal -- barriers, discrimination, persecution, hate, etc.

Still, all in all ... he'd have their backs.

The root of his concerns, however -- the fact his family, steeped in tradition and custom, is in a different position than most of their countrymen. While others coming out might be widely embraced when they come out ... the spotlight's much bigger for Royal family members.

The upside is Wills' comments could do a lot to push the needle forward for LGBTQ youth in the United Kingdom.

NY Yankees Unveil LGBTQ Plaque In Monument Park ... 'We Welcome Everyone'

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Big moment at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday ... when some of the team's biggest stars helped to unveil a new plaque in Monument Park paying tribute to the gay rights movement.

Pitchers CC Sabathia and Dellin Betances -- along with G.M. Brian Cashman -- held the ceremony to reveal the Stonewall Inn plaque ... which honors the people who fought back during a violent police raid at the Stonewall Inn gay bar in NYC back in 1969.

The incident at the Stonewall is credited with igniting the LGBTQ rights movement.

In fact, the current owners of the Stonewall Inn -- which is still operational in Greenwich Village -- were also on hand for the ceremony.

In addition to the plaque, the Yankees are also working with owners Stacy Lentz and Kurt Kelly to create a scholarship benefiting LGBTQ public school students.

"[The Yankees have] gone beyond a Pride Night," Lentz told the NY Daily News ... "They understand that having a permanent fixture when fans come here, LGBTQ fans are going to feel safe and welcome."

Cashman told the media, "We want to be an organization that represents inclusion and safe harbor. We try and make a difference that way."

Yankees manager Aaron Boone added, "You wear this uniform, you work for this organization, it carries a lot of weight. I think that it’s important as an organization we welcome everyone, not only to work for this franchise but from a fanbase.”