Two soldiers rip Chargers for cropping 'San Diego' from photo

The photo, before cropping


By TOD LEONARD | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: November 17, 2017

SAN DIEGO (Tribune News Service) — “Typical Chargers.”

That was the response by retired Army Sgt. First Class Johnny Case when an uproar over social media developed this week after the Los Angeles Chargers edited a photo of Army soldiers — including cropping out a servicemember and the bottom of the American flag — so they could eliminate “San Diego” from the Chargers flag in the picture.

The photo, taken in Afghanistan in 2014, was arranged by Case, who grew up in National City as a “die-hard” Chargers fan. He has a huge “SD” and lightning bolt tattooed onto his upper right arm.

Case, 32, who lives in Paradise Hills, said he didn’t know about the Chargers’ Twitter post, in honor of “Salute to Service” week, until friends inundated his phone with messages.

“For them to do that to my picture, and not even ask, to crop out one of our guys … it was like, ‘Wow, of course they’re going to do that,’ ” Case said Friday morning in a phone interview. “They have this spite for San Diego. But it’s not about San Diego. It’s a soldier. It’s Veterans Day. You cropped out a veteran.

“I was (mad), but I guess social media had my back and took it over for me.

“People are saying, ‘You should sue Dean Spanos,’ ” Case added with a laugh. “I wish. I’d bring the team right back to San Diego.”

The background on the photo: Case was on his fourth tour of duty (two in Afghanistan and two in Iraq) when he gathered his buddies — many of whom were from Camp Pendleton — to take the photo. They posed in front of the gun trucks they used to escort convoys.

They gathered around the two flags, and one soldier — Minh Tran — laid down in front. He was cropped out of the Chargers’ post so the team could eliminate the part of the Chargers’ flag that said “San Diego.”

“I felt it was disrespectful of them to crop me out, but I’m more upset about them cropping out the bottom of the flags,” Tran said Friday in a text. “Everyone in that picture supported the San Diego Chargers. I grew up watching the team and I supported them whether they won or lost.”

Case said the original photo got a big response on social media in 2014, including messages of thanks from the Chargers players.

Asked for comment, a Chargers spokesman replied:

“The photo should not have been cropped.

“The Chargers have a long history of supporting service members and their families. It is a history we are proud of, and it is a history we even detailed in our game release this week.”

The team cited walk-through practices at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Naval Base San Diego (32nd Street) and on the flight decks of USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Abraham Lincoln.

“The goal of this week, its entire purpose, is to honor United States Armed Forces veterans who have defended our nation and give thanks to the brave men and women who currently serve our country in the military,” the Chargers spokesman said. “As such, we look forward to continuing our Salute to Service across all digital channels with content that includes: Chargers players and Charger Girls serving Thanksgiving meals to hundreds of Marines who recently finished basic training at Camp Pendleton during Bob Hope USO’s Thanksgiving celebration this past Tuesday; hosting a friendly competition on Friday between players and active military with Pros vs. GI Joes, a non-profit that provides troops opportunities to compete against athletes in video games such as Call of Duty or Madden; and recognizing 11 World War II veterans on-field this Sunday as one of many military recognitions throughout the day.”

Case, who received a medical retirement after suffering a severe knee injury in his last Afghanistan tour, is a former longtime season ticket holder who has had a good relationship with the players. He said he has corresponded regularly with defensive lineman Corey Liuget and once sent him a flag that flew over a camp in Afghanistan.

“I love Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates and Corey Liuget — those are stand-up guys,” Case said. “Those are the guys I follow. But, honestly, the passion is not there. To organization has done so much to destroy it for us. It’s just not the same and it’s never going to be.

“I guess I hope the team sucks this bad for the next five years so they’ll get sold and come back down here.”

U-T reporter Annie Heilbrunn contributed to this report.


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