Be a Benchwarmer: Former Charger, Local Athletes Urge San Diegans to #StayOnTheBench

Each message is emphasized with the former athletes urging San Diegans to “get off the field and stay on the bench"

NBCUniversal, Inc.

It’s a roll call of San Diego sports legends, done in an effort to aid in the battle against COVID-19. And it was the idea of former San Diego Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke.

“I sent a bunch of emails and started to call some of my old teammates and friends who were San Diego sports legends and they got into it, and we started receiving videos from them,” Benirschke told NBC 7.

On the list: Former San Diego Padres Trevor Hoffman, Wally Joyner, Mark Loretta, Phil Nevin, Brad Ausmus made videos, as did Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Robert, Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black, former Chargers lineman Ed White, head coach Bobby Ross and former San Diego State basketball coach Steve Fisher.

From there Benirschke rolled out a social media campaign with a hashtag, #stayonthebenchsd.

The San Diego sports stars each have a message that is aimed at following the coronavirus guidelines, such as practicing social distancing, wearing masks and gloves outside, and each message is emphasized with the former athletes urging San Diegans to “get off the field and stay on the bench.”

“The game is not over, the fight is still on,” says Benirschke.

To see all the local sports legends is a lot of fun, but Benirschke wants everyone to remember just how lethal COVID-19 is.

“It’s not a game, it’s real, it’s living and dying. I think we need to listen to our leaders. It’s sort of like a player and a coach, we didn’t always agree with them, but they generally knew what was right," he said. "Our leaders are connected to the smartest medical people around and they understand epidemics and pandemics much better than we do."

During the 1979 NFL season with the Chargers, Benirschke almost died from complications due to ulcerative colitis, amazingly he survived thanks to two emergency surgeries and blood donations from the San Diego community. Those donations helped start the longtime Chargers' blood drive that saved so many lives. So, for Benirschke all the videos and all the community support isn’t surprising.

“We’re a big city but we behave like a small town, where we know each other and care about each other. We’re seeing people drop off food, make masks, bring food for the hospital workers, help in any way we can, it’s personal for us,” Benirschke said.

It’s personal for Benirschke, too. That’s why, with a little help from his sports friends on social media, he’s asking San Diego to stay on the bench until the COVID-19 threat passes.

“Let’s take care of each other, like we always have.”

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