CHARGES AMONG CHARGERS
The San Diego Chargers of the early 1980s were a talented but troubled team—their late owner, Gene Klein, once told SI that "a lot of" his players used cocaine—and last week more startling allegations surfaced about the Chargers of that era and about the city in which they played.
Since last October a San Diego County grand jury has been investigating alleged misconduct in the city's police department. On July 16 The San Diego Union reported that former Charger running back Chuck Muncie had testified to the grand jury that former quarterback Dan Fouts was shot in 1983—and that San Diego police covered up the incident to protect Fouts's and the Chargers' reputations.
Six former Chargers have told SI that the San Diego police department, which since the early '80s assigned the same two officers to the team as security agents, "protected" the players by regularly ignoring or concealing criminal activity ranging from drug use to traffic violations. Muncie, who served 15 months in prison for drug offenses before being released to a halfway house on May 1, had his sentence reduced by nine months in exchange for his testimony. During interviews with SI while in prison, Muncie said that he was with a woman in one room of a Del Mar, Calif., condominium and that Fouts and another woman were sharing a different room when "I absolutely heard the shooting. I think it was an irate husband of the girl [ Fouts was with]."
Muncie told SI that the righthanded Fouts was wounded in the right shoulder, and that they immediately called Dick Lewis, one of the officers assigned to the Chargers. According to Muncie, when Lewis arrived at the condo, he "interviewed the girls and then said, 'Let's get out of here.' Dick said, 'We don't want nothing said about this.' "
In August 1989, Lewis and George Varela, the other cop assigned to the team, left the police force to work for the Chargers. Last week both denied to The Union that the shooting ever happened. Neither could be reached last week by SI regarding the other allegations of protecting the Chargers.
Fouts, who played 15 NFL seasons before retiring in 1988, missed five straight games in '83, beginning with San Diego's Oct. 23 meeting with the Denver Broncos. At the time Charger officials said he had reinjured his problem right shoulder the previous week against the New England Patriots. (The injury was attributed to a hit Fouts took from linebacker Andre Tippett in the third quarter, but the quarterback completed the game.) "I've never been shot," Fouts told SI in July 1988. "I heard that story myself. It's laughable to me. Because of some guys on the team and because of our relationship with the police department, we got some special attention." Fouts again denied the story in The Union last week.
Muncie first told SI in April 1989 that Fouts's wound was treated in the home of Paul Woodward, the Chargers' team physician at the time. An employee in Woodward's eight-doctor office reports hearing that Fouts had a wound described as "a grazing." Woodward denies ever having treated Fouts for a gunshot wound.
Rumors of a shooting have long persisted among Charger players. "I did hear it," former tight end Kellen Winslow told SI in 1988. "[But] Fouts was like the CIA. You don't question them. Or more like it, Fouts was J. Edgar Fouts."
"There were few people who would question anything I did," Fouts told SI in the 1988 interview. "I guess they thought I would come down on them."