Tom Krasovic: Chargers coach Anthony Lynn would’ve been good for San Diego

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Even after the Chargers were moved north, Philip Rivers remained a San Diego resident.

Too bad the same couldn’t have happened with Anthony Lynn.

This will sound hokey, but with Lynn among us, San Diego would be a better place.

Especially now, amid heated times, it helps to have a public figure who can and will connect with people across a broad spectrum, who will tell inconvenient truths to powerful folks without turning them off.

We can talk about Lynn’s football work another time. (He has win-loss records of 9-7, 12-4 and 5-11 with one playoff victory and no divisional titles.)

If this husband and father who grew up in Texas, carved out an NFL career as an undrafted running back and built his own construction firm before launching his coaching career isn’t the fair and sturdy person he seems to be, then it’s good he’s near Hollywood.

Lynn, 51, seems to have a big heart in light of the many good deeds he does off the field, including his support of a mentor program for fatherless boys in South Los Angeles, his participation in fundraisers for the L.A. Unified School District and his foundation’s varied efforts on behalf of children.

With Rivers having moved on, Lynn has become the face of the Chargers. And Angelenos are seeing a lot of him, as San Diegans no doubt would have.

“I believe I have a responsibility to help my community wherever I’m at and just to help people in general,” Lynn said Wednesday in a video chat with reporters.

With his outreach, Lynn calls to mind several former Chargers players.

Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson and Junior Seau living many years here was an NFL windfall to San Diego that was easily overlooked. Sure, all three were great football players, but they also did a lot of charitable work here. It didn’t hurt that as members of a racial minority, Gates and teammates perhaps stood a better chance of connecting with San Diego youth within the same minorities.

Reggie Bush, for example, said that while he was growing up in San Diego he took note of Tomlinson’s many charitable works. After becoming an NFL player himself, the alum of Helix High in La Mesa said he was inspired to follow Tomlinson’s example.

Lynn’s determination to assist others took him and his wife, Stacey Bell, a TV news anchor in New York, to East Africa in his second offseason as Chargers coach two summers ago. They helped to fund a school in a rural village in the northern part of Tanzania.

“These kids were getting pushed into the workforce as early as possible, growing up without education at all,” he said in an interview with Jenny Vrentas of SI.Com. “It was sad, because where do your hopes and dreams come from if you don’t have that? How do you know if you like science until you take a science class? When I learned about the situation, I felt like I had to get involved.”

There’s an expression about goodness, that it must have some edge to it, else it is none.

Lynn’s goodness has become more edgy lately, in response to racial injustice that angered him and many others of all races.

For example, three weeks ago, he participated in a protest in Huntington Beach in response to the killing of George Floyd, a fellow Black man, in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers in late May. And as part of a blunt, far-ranging interview with LZ Granderson of the Los Angeles Times, he not only spoke out about those police officers, especially the three bystanders, but also a woman who was caught on video attempting to get a man arrested for no valid reason in New York’s Central Park.

Like it or not, an NFL coach can reach a large audience beyond football fans. You can be sure that if Lynn had taken part in a San Diego protest against racial injustice, footage of the coach would have led all the local TV newscasts and been featured in the Union-Tribune.

“It’s time to speak up and stand for something,” Lynn said Wednesday of racial injustice. “What’s been going in our country right now has been going on far too long.”

Lynn’s status allows him access to powerful people, and he has used that position to further understanding among people who otherwise may not have frank conversations with each other.

For example, at the request of his players, he arranged for a local judge to speak with them in a question-and-answer session.

“It was very interesting,” Lynn said of the recent back-and-forth. With a laugh, he added: “That’s probably one of the hardest conversations he’s ever had.”

Lynn said the players sought a judge as a guest speaker because judges “are the shot callers, and we’re talking about holding people accountable — ‘when this happened, why doesn’t this happen?’ Guys said they didn’t want to bring in just a city official or an activist. They wanted to bring in someone who actually makes those decisions, and so that’s what we did.”

Making himself available, Lynn said he has chatted lately with several police officers who reached out to him. They were responding to his comment to the Times that “good” officers need to speak out against “bad” officers.

“They assured me that 99.9% of most officers feel that way — it’s just a few bad apples,” said the coach, who received phone calls from officers who got his phone number without his knowing it. “We had some really good conversations. You get to hear it from their perspective. … They go through a lot, they often see the worst in people and not the best side of people. I think there’s an effect there as well — but that’s a whole other topic. I’ve learned a lot from speaking with those officers for sure.”

Time that Lynn could have spent on football instead was spent chatting recently with Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, the first African American to hold that job since it was created in 1850.

The coach has encouraged his players to vote in elections, and I don’t mean for the Pro Bowl. He told them voting in local elections is especially important.

He soon will meet with CEOs who head foundations in the region.

His endgame: “I really believe every neighborhood should have a level playing field, and that’s not the case right now.”

He said Chargers players are eager to make good things happen off the field, not just on it. They pester him with questions.

“That’s why I’m hitting the pavement right now and meeting with city officials and talking with everyone I can to create a platform for this organization and our players to participate in,” he said.

Lynn, who lives near the team’s training site in Orange County, isn’t sticking to football. And a lot of people are better for it.


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