Chargers plan to link arms during the anthem before Sunday’s game

Chargers players have agreed to simply lock arms in unity this week during the playing of the national anthem.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers plan to present a united front before Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, agreeing Friday to stand and link arms during the national anthem at StubHub Center.

While most players and coaches stood and linked arms during the anthem before last Sunday’s game, five defensive linemen — Brandon Mebane, Chris McCain, Damion Square, Darius Philon and Tenny Palepoi — sat or kneeled to draw attention to racism and social injustice and rebuff criticism from President Trump for their actions.

“We just want to get back to playing football and get the politics out,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “Last week, the guys wanted to do something to show we were against divisive remarks by anybody and to stand together as one unit, and we decided to stick with it.”


Lynn expects all players and coaches to stand and link arms, but when asked if everyone agreed, he said, “Yes … for the most part.”

If players choose to kneel or sit, “That’s on them,” Lynn said. “If that’s the way they choose to express themselves, we support them 100%.”

There seemed to be a consensus Friday among the players.

“Obviously, things are not where we want them to be at right now, but as a team, we all decided to link arms,” Mebane said. “I don’t know if 100% will do it, but right now, that was the plan coming out of our team meeting.”

McCain, who was outspoken in his remarks about Trump last Sunday, said he will stand, though it appears with some reluctance.

“No good will come out of commenting on it, so I’m just gonna keep my mouth closed,” McCain said. “I respect my coach. It’s his decision. It’s what he wants.”

The Chargers, like many NFL teams, also have discussed ways to affect the community in a positive way. Lynn plans to meet with Los Angeles Police Dept. officers and perhaps go on a ride-along on next Tuesday’s off day in an effort to “improve police relationships in different communities.”

Mebane, a Los Angeles native who witnessed the riots in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King verdict as a child and attended Crenshaw High, plans to sponsor reading programs for kids at his elementary school and conduct nutrition programs at his middle school.

“I was eating pizza and nachos every day in middle school,” said Mebane, a former Seattle Seahawks lineman who recently adopted a plant-based diet. “I found out [later] that that was a problem.”

Mebane recalled flying into LAX during a bye week a few years ago and counting 30 fast-food restaurants during the seven-mile drive to his parents’ house.

“We counted one or two grocery stores,” Mebane said. “We have all these fast-food restaurants and no organic restaurants. We have to let the youth know there are different ways of eating healthy.”

Mebane balked at the idea of riding along with LAPD officers but is eager to promote any community-based policing efforts.

“Before the riots, there was tension in the African-American community with the police — every time we’d see an officer, no matter what … we’d see them as the enemy because of different things that happened with harassment, things like that,” Mebane said. “After the riots, the police tried to get close to the community.

“We’d be outside playing, the cops would stop their car, go to their trunk and give us big long sheets of Dodgers baseball cards. That was a way for them to connect with the community. I thought that was actually a good thing, and years later, that kind of went away.”


Running back Melvin Gordon (knee), right tackle Joe Barksdale (foot), linebacker Hayes Pullard (knee) and tight end Sean McGrath (foot) were full participants in Friday’s light practice and listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Lynn expects Gordon and Barksdale to play and said Pullard will be a game-time decision. … Rookie receiver Mike Williams, out since May because of a herniated disk in his lower back, was a limited practice participant this week but is ruled out for Sunday. “He was close, but we decided he needs more time,” Lynn said. … Philadelphia defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who has two sacks this season and is considered one of the Eagles’ best defenders, has been ruled out of Sunday’s game because of a calf injury.

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna