Super Bowl Halftime Show Rihanna in Discussions with NFL to Headline

The Super Bowl Halftime Show could be lit beyond words, because TMZ has learned the NFL and Roc Nation have been in talks with Rihanna to headline.

Sources with direct knowledge tell TMZ ... there have been multiple discussions with Rihanna and her team. We do not know if she's a firm go, but our sources say the NFL may reveal who they've locked up as early as Sunday afternoon via tweet.

Rihanna makes a lot of sense, because she's a Roc Nation artist, so it's an easy call for Jay-Z.  BTW, Rihanna has been teasing her new music for more than a year, and if she's ready to release it there's no better platform than the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

We're told there have also been discussions with another performer, but it's not either/or -- in other words, there would be at least 2 performers on stage.

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It's interesting ... Rihanna turned down an offer to headline at the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show because of her opposition to the way Colin Kaepernick was treated by the NFL.

TMZ broke the story ... the NFL asked Taylor Swift months ago to headline the Halftime Show, but she took a pass.

We're told she'd like to do the Super Bowl, but only after she rerecords all 6 of her early albums, and she's only rerecorded 2 so far.

Trippie Redd Hoops Host with the Most ... DROPPING 3s AND UNRELEASED TRACK!!!

CHILLIN' WITH TRIPPIE
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Trippie Redd is currently spreading his sounds and touching his fans down under, and his Australian supporters are getting treated to new music before anyone else!!!

The "Love Scars" rapper/rocker packed out Melbourne streetwear boutique Culture Kings this week for a meet-and-greet -- finally getting a chance to connect with the people post-pandemic.

Fans in attendance got to see Trippie's multi-layered cool side ... he hosted a 3-point shooting contest, where the winner laid claim to precious store credit.

He even took time out to listen to aspiring rappers and treated the crowd to an unreleased track ... which we're told had everyone in attendance in a frenzy once they were getting exclusive stuff!!!

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Trippie's in town for the Listen Out Festival ... with appearances in both Melbourne and Perth set for this weekend.

Back stateside, he recently became a creative director for the popular fashion brand Culture Kings, which is opening its U.S. flagship store this November in Vegas at Caesars Palace.

Dwight Howard Dead Serious About WWE Interest ... 'Of Course, No Doubt'

OPEN TO THE NEXT THING
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Dwight Howard tells TMZ Sports he's dead serious about his interest in joining the WWE -- explaining he'd trade the basketball court for the wrestling ring this year if the offer was right.

Howard showed back in July he certainly has the chops to cut it in the squared circle -- delivering an epic promo after crashing a WWE tryout in Nashville.

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And, when we got him out at LAX this week, he made it clear that wasn't just a one-off thing ... telling us he really has a desire to eventually go head-to-head with Roman Reigns, Bobby Lashley and the rest of the WWE's best in the near future.

In fact, Dwight said if the offer to wrestle in the WWE was better than one an NBA team could give him -- he'd have no qualms taking it.

"Whatever opportunity is best," the NBA free agent said.

As for what kind of personality Dwight would have in the org. -- he said he could be both a hero and a villain.

Triple H, meanwhile, seems to be down to give him the shot ... in a recent interview, WWE's CCO said all Dwight would have to do is give him a call and they could get things rolling.

“The ball’s in his court,” Triple H said ... "He came by our tryouts in Nashville, was incredibly entertaining, jumping in promos by himself and then with others -- incredibly entertaining."

"So, when he says, 'Hey, I want to give this a shot,' he's got my phone number. All he's got to do is call me, and we'll see what can happen."

LenDale White Derrick Henry Isn't Washed!!! ... Huge Games Are Coming

"TENNESSEE IS BUILT FOR TIGHT GAMES"
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R-E-L-A-X, fantasy football players ... Derrick Henry's big games are coming soon -- so says former Titans star LenDale White, who tells TMZ Sports the big tailback is NOT washed.

White joined Chris Johnson in the TMZ office this week ... and guaranteed Henry would be back to form sooner than later after struggling in the opening two weeks of the NFL season.

"I honestly don't believe Derrick has lost his step at all," White said. "I feel like once he gets on the right track and [head coach Mike] Vrabel gets those guys going, he'll be Derrick Henry of old -- King Henry."

The words are music to Tennessee fans' ears -- 'cause Henry really has not looked good so far this year. He only has 107 total rushing yards and 1 TD ... and is averaging a mere 3.1 yards per carry.

But White says there's a lot of factors that go into all of that -- including injuries and troubles in the passing game -- which he believes will all get worked out soon and allow Henry to thrive once again.

White and Johnson were also optimistic that their old Titans squad will flip around their season after starting 0-2.

Henry and the rest of the Titans will look to prove the guys right later Sunday -- when they take on the Raiders at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

Lolo Jones Me On 'The Bachelor?!?' ... I'd Do It If It Had This Twist!!!

NEVER STOP COMPETING
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Lolo Jones tells TMZ Sports she's down to be on a dating show like "The Bachelor" ... on one condition -- the program would need a big change in its age requirements!

The Olympic hurdler and bobsledder explained her stance on it all when we got her out in New York City this week ... saying if producers would make the cast older, she'd be intrigued.

"Why is the Bachelor, Bachelorette never old?" she said. "Tell me that?! 'Cause those are the people that want to get married the most. These 20-year-olds, they're not trying to get married."

The 40-year-old -- who knows a thing or two about reality shows as she's been on "Celebrity Big Brother" and "The Challenge" -- tells us she is single, so it could all work out.

"You guys need to get someone that's like 40-plus," Jones said in a message to dating show producers. "Because they're trying to settle down, have a family."

"Like," she added, "sign me up!"

For now, the World Indoor Champion appears content to continue to use dating apps -- and she tells us it's been hit or miss in that category.

"You know," she said, "I'ma keep plugging away, right?!"

Ime Udoka Affair Staffer Handled His Travel ... Including Nia's Boston Move

The Celtics employee with whom Ime Udoka had an affair helped make all his travel arrangements ... and that job sometimes included organizing travel for his fiancee, Nia Long.

Sources connected to the couple and the NBA franchise tell TMZ ... one of the staffer's duties included planning Udoka's team-related travel, and we're told she was also involved in booking travel for Nia to come to Boston or to road games.

Perhaps most upsetting for Nia is that the employee had a hand in Nia's arrangements to move to Boston permanently, according to our sources.

TMZ broke the story ... Nia had just moved east a little over 2 weeks ago with Kez, her 10-year-old son with Ime.

The Celtics are not releasing the name of the employee, but we're told Nia has been told who she is.

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Team President Brad Stevens got choked up Friday during a news conference ... saying the scandal had been particularly upsetting for all their female employees -- due to speculation about who had the affair with Udoka.

As we've reported, the team suspended its head coach for the entire 2022-23 season after what it says was a months-long investigation into his conduct.

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We've reached out to the Celtics for comment, but no word back yet. Ditto for Nia's reps.

'Smile' Creepy Actors Infiltrate MLB ... To Plug New Horror Flick

A new horror movie is coming out next week, and the studio found a creative way to let people know about ... sending background actors to live baseball games, front and center.

We're talking about Paramount's latest offering, "Smile," which drops next Friday ... and amid a lot of "Don't Worry Darling" chatter, it seems the mountain execs were trying to find a way to break through the noise and stand out ... and they chose MLB broadcasts to do it.

Several marquee matchups aired on big-time TV stations Friday -- including Dodgers vs. Cardinals, Mets vs. A's and Yankees vs. Sox. In all of them, there was at least one person prominently positioned behind home plate that held a super creepy smile the entire time.

It was perhaps most notable during the Mets game, where a woman in a highlight green shirt (with the word SMILE written across) was standing and smiling awkwardly ... that is, until a security guard told her to park it.

Another guy in green was also spotted at the Dodgers game, sitting in silence and holding a creepy smile for much of the game. Some of them stood up at times, but mostly sat still and just held the pose ... completely committed to the gag.

Another man, this time in blue, was seen at the Yankees game ... and he got up occasionally -- with viewers at home certainly taking notice and noting it was freaking them out.

Unclear if there were more actors at other games, but these are the ones that people paid close attention to. Of course, this is good old-fashioned viral marketing ... and it would appear it worked, 'cause the stunt is getting some media coverage.

"Smile" is going up against Billy Eichner's rom-com, "Bros," next week ... not to mention any spillover from 'DWD' and other recent horror releases like "Barbarian" and "Pearl." Plus, "Avatar" is back in theaters, and it already seems to be doing well -- so tough competition.

Paramount's smiling through it all though, especially at the ballpark!

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Eddie Hearn Suing Jake Paul For $100+ Million For Claiming Promoter Rigged Serrano vs. Taylor

UPDATE

11:15 AM PT -- Eddie Hearn is suing Jake Paul for over $100 million ... according to the promoter's attorney, Frank Salzano.

UPDATE

"Both legally and ethically there is a clear line separating opinion from defamatory lies. Jake Paul knows that, and he purposely crossed that line when he wrongly accused Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn of fixing fights."

UPDATE

"Nonetheless he was still given an opportunity to retract his defamatory statements and refused to. Now he will face the legal consequences of his actions as Matchroom and Mr. Hearn will be seeking damages in well excess of $100 million given the value and goodwill attached to the Matchroom business and the harmful nature of Mr. Paul’s comments."

Jake Paul is being sued by Eddie Hearn -- one of the most powerful people in boxing -- after The Problem Child claimed the promoter paid off a judge in two recent, high-profile bouts.

In a newly filed lawsuit, obtained by TMZ Sports, Hearn and his company, Matchroom Boxing, claim their reputation was damaged after 25-year-old Paul "made outrageously false and baseless allegations" during an interview on Sept. 20.

In the talk, Paul claimed Hearn's Matchroom Boxing paid off judge Glenn Feldman in the August Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua fight. Paul claimed that same judge was also paid off by Matchroom in the April Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano fight.

Taylor won by split decision over Serrano, while Joshua lost by split decision to Usyk.

"Glenn Feldman shows up in Saudi and scores Anthony Joshua to win the fight when everyone who watched the fight said it was not a split decision," Paul said ... before adding, "Clearly, this guy is getting paid money by Matchroom Boxing."

Hearn included Paul's video interview as an exhibit in the lawsuit ... filed by attorney Frank Salzano.

Paul, in the interview, also acknowledged that it was "a bold statement and an accusation that I don't take likely, but it's just blatantly obvious. And they're not even trying to hide it."

Hearn -- who's suing Paul for defamation -- called the comments "outlandishly false."

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He's asking for damages in excess of $75,000.

Chris Johnson Hopeful For Hall Of Fame Nod ... But Ex-Teammate Guarantees It'll Happen!!!

"SAW IT ON TWITTER"
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Chris Johnson is now one of 129 people hoping to make the Hall of Fame in 2023 ... but according to his former teammate, LenDale White, he doesn't need to sweat it -- 'cause he WILL get a bust in Canton next summer.

CJ2K -- one of the best running backs in NFL history -- was officially nominated for the HOF for the first time earlier this week ... alongside 128 other former stars, including Joe Thomas and Darrelle Revis.

Johnson swung by the TMZ office with White just a day after he got the good news -- and he was pumped ... saying he was hopeful it'd now all eventually lead to him getting the call to the Hall later this season.

"Just to be a nominee, it's a blessing," he said. "Hopefully I can make it all the way through. We gon' see what happens."

But according to White, who played two seasons with Johnson in Tennessee in 2008 and 2009, the former Titans great doesn't need to fret about it too much ... guaranteeing the 37-year-old will make it this year.

"He will make it all the way through," White said. "I mean, I feel that way."

Johnson played 10 years in the league, rushing for 9,651 yards and scoring 64 total TDs. In 2009, he had one of the greatest seasons ever by an RB, running for 2,006 yards and 14 scores.

White and Johnson both think those numbers should be enough to get him in ... but they did acknowledge if he had played just a few more years and stat-piled during that timeframe, it wouldn't even be a question.

Johnson, though, said he had no regrets about how his career played out.

The first cut for the '23 class will be in November. The finalists will be then announced in January.

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While Johnson waits for the call, he and White will continue talkin' football on their "Smash & Dash" podcast ... which the guys say includes a whole lot of other topics -- including dating!

DJ Whoo Kid, Waka Flocka Flame Strickland, Lee, Let's Fight In AEW ... $100K For Charity!!!

THE OL' SWITCHEROO
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Waka Flocka Flame and DJ Whoo Kid are teaming up ... challenging AEW stars Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee to a match -- with a twist -- loser has to donate $100K to donate to a charity!!

TMZ Sports spoke with Whoo Kid, who attended AEW Dynamite at Arthur Ashe Stadium in NYC on Wednesday ... and he broke down the beef between him and Swerve.

The famous DJ said he was supposed to walk out with Strickland and his partner, Lee, but he switched places with NY-born rapper Fabolous at the last minute, leaving the tag team duo pissed off.

Whoo Kid told us he didn't want to be booed by the fans, so he decided to walk out with Strickland's opponents, "The Acclaimed," made up of Max Caster and Anthony Bowens.

During the interview, Wacka Flocka (who happened to be with WK at the time) crashed the party and threw down the gauntlet ... telling Strickland and Lee, if they're looking for a fight, he's down to make it happen, no matter the time or place.

"We'll have a match right in the parking lot," Flocka said. "Wherever I see 'em, it's a match. Get the refs. It's going down."

As for what entrance music Whoo Kid and Flocka will use if/when they fight Strickland and Lee .. you guessed it, the 2010 hit song "Hard in da Paint."

"That's it," Kid said. "That's the number one song. Period!"

UFC's Raul Rosas Jr. 17 Yr. Old Fighter ... Mom & Dad Signed My Contract!

PUNCHIN' YOUNGIN'
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Raul Rosas Jr. -- the 17-year-old who just inked a UFC deal -- is one of the most badass high schoolers in the world ... but, RR's so young, he tells TMZ Sports his mom and dad had to sign his contract!

It's a history-making signing for the UFC ... who made Rosas Jr. the youngest fighter to sign with the promotion after the teenager beat 25-year-old Mando Gutierrez earlier this week on the Contender Series.

We talked to the newest/youngest UFC fighter just days after inking the deal ... and while we may all be surprised he's reached this level as fast as he has, he isn't.

"No, not really [shocked] because I've been working my whole life for this moment. Right now, everything going into existence, but I'm grateful for this opportunity, but not impressed."

FYI, Rosas Jr. is 6-0 professionally (and 6-0 as an amateur) ... and fights in the bantamweight division.

The funny part ... 'cause Rosas Jr. is still a minor, his parents had to sign his contract.

"My parents got to sign too because I'm a minor. So parental guardians got to be on there, too."

But, make no mistake, this kid can fight ... and if you want to see how excited the UFC is for his arrival, just listen to Dana.

As for the reaction of his friends and peers, the 12th grader says many of his classmates are pumped about the achievement.

"A lot of them are happy and excited because they don't really know how this process works for me to get to the UFC. I never really explained it because it's a long process. They just like since middle school, like 'Hey when is Dana White gonna sign you?' Or stuff like that."

Lastly, we asked Raul if anyone messes with him at school.

His response? "No, no, no."

Smart kids.

Cody Rhodes Opens Up About Torn Pec Injury ... Eager For WWE Return!!!

TAKIN' IT SLOW
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Cody Rhodes is champing at the bit to return to WWE ... telling TMZ Sports the torn pec muscle he suffered has him more motivated than ever to step foot back inside the ring.

And, when we spoke to the WWE Superstar at LAX earlier this week, he told us he's getting closer to making his highly anticipated return.

"They know I'm stupid, and I'd try to test it," Rhodes told us, adding, "I got in my mind where I want to be, and I think a lot of fans have in their mind where I'd like to be, and that's hopefully where it's at."

Despite the serious injury, Rhodes return to the company has been awesome ... as they've embraced him with open arms.

"They've treated me like the house that built me," Rhodes said. "And honestly, it was amazing. "We were back, and everything was rolling so fast. And then I tore my pec."

"It was like the best three months of my life," he continued. "Hopefully, get back to that soon."

Rhodes tore his pectoral muscle while weight training before his match against Seth Rollins at "Hell in a Cell," and joked he was told he had the strength of an 11-year-old.

Rhodes isn't rushing his return, despite badly wanting to wrestle again ... but when he returns, he's intent on capturing the magic he had with the fans pre-injury.

"Hopefully, it's a run that people will remember, and I gotta be healthy for it."

Taylor Swift Turned Down Super Bowl Offer ... Not Happening Until She's Rerecorded First 6 Albums

Taylor Swift was, in fact, asked to perform at Super Bowl LVII, TMZ has learned, but turned the offer down ... and we know why.

Sources with direct knowledge of the Super Bowl halftime show tell us ... Swift was approached months ago by SB honchos, asking if she'd headline. We're told Taylor was clear ... she didn't want to perform until she finished rerecording all of her first 6 albums.

As you probably know, back in 2019, Scooter Braun was part of a group that acquired the rights to her first 6 albums. Taylor was pissed, saying she was "sad and grossed out." Braun has since sold the master recordings ... and Taylor vowed to rerecord them to, in effect, regain ownership. She's already rerecorded and released "Red" and "Fearless."

We're told Taylor would like to headline a Super Bowl halftime show, but now it's an issue of timing. It's possible she could finish the remaining 4 albums -- "Taylor Swift," "Speak Now," "1989," and "Reputation" -- in the next year. That would open the possibility of a 2024 appearance, but it all depends on finishing the rerecords.

Our Super Bowl sources tell us ... they're still looking for a female popstar for the big performance.

O.J. Simpson Steelers Need To Bench Trubisky ... Start Kenny Pickett!!!

TIME FOR A BACKUP PLAN

O.J. Simpson has a solution to the Steelers' offensive struggles, and it starts with making a change at the QB position by benching Mitchell Trubisky and starting Kenny Pickett.

Simpson broke down why the Steelers' offense seemingly stalled all night against the Browns during their Thursday Night Football game (CLE won 29-17), saying Trubisky isn't the answer under center.

"I don't see these guys being inspired by their quarterback play," Simpson said. "I don't know what Kenny Pickett is able to do, but I'm willing to bet anybody that he'll score more than four touchdowns in the next three games."

"[The] problem is Pittsburgh isn't going to win any 14-10 games. They're gonna have to score points to win, and I just don't see that happening with Trubisky."

Steelers fans have been clamoring for Pickett -- who was selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft -- after watching Trubisky struggle to move the ball against Cincy and New England.

Juice said Trubisky -- who finished the game with 207 yards and zero touchdowns -- "wasn't that bad," but the body language of his receivers concerned the disgraced HOF running back.

"It just wasn't good, especially Diontae Johnson," O.J. said.

O.J. said he didn't realize how devastating the loss of T.J. Watt -- who tore his pectoral muscle in Week 1 against the Bengals -- was to the fabric and identity of the Steelers team.

Simpson thinks Watt's absence on defense -- he could return in six weeks possibly -- coupled with their lackluster offense is going to make head coach Mike Tomlin's job harder this season.

Tom Brady I Cut My Finger Off ... Just Kidding!!!

KNIFE SKILLS
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Tom Brady just gave every Buccaneers fan a heart attack -- pretending to cut off his finger while filming a video ... but don't worry, it's all fake!

TB12 made the joke while hanging out with celebrity chef Nick DiGiovanni recently.

In the clip that the GOAT shared to his Instagram page, he asked Nick how to toss a knife on the cutting board for the camera.

"Just take it, and put it into the board," Nick said

Brady did just that -- but then suddenly screamed, "F***!"

The CGI is pretty good ... making it all look real -- but, Brady is just fine.

The vid is pretty ironic considering Brady is dealing with an actual finger injury in real life -- after he hit it on a play against the New Orleans Saints during their game last Sunday.

Tampa Bay head coach Todd Bowles, though, said Friday the guy will be all right for Sunday's game against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

THE TB SPECIAL
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Brady also ended up filming a real vid with DiGiovanni -- showing the influencer how to make some of his iconic avocado ice cream ... and, don't fret, he kept all his digits intact for that shot.

Taylor Swift Sorry Swifties ... I'm Not Performing SB Halftime Show!!!

Taylor Swift fans might think their favorite musician is lined up to play the next Super Bowl Halftime show, but it just ain't true ... TMZ has learned.

Social media was on fire Friday after TS fans thought the NFL dropped a few Easter eggs that hinted at Taylor being the big performer. However, we've spoken to sources with direct knowledge who tell us Taylor's NOT going to be performing at Super Bowl LVII in Arizona.

As for those Easter Eggs, the NFL sent out a press release at midnight announcing Apple Music would take Pepsi's spot as the sponsor of the show. If you're not familiar, Taylor's been making a lot of midnight announcements lately, so fans believed there was a connection.

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What's more, Taylor's had a deal in place with Coca-Cola for years, making a Pepsi halftime show impossible ... so with Pepsi out of the picture, fans thought it made sense for Taylor.

Of course, whoever gets the gig will have big shoes to fill ... Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent made headlines as one of the best shows of all time during the big game in Los Angeles earlier this year.

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