"If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play well."
That was the message Chargers general manager Tom Telesco gave to approximately 150 players from the Inglewood Chargers Youth Football & Cheer teams as he joined wide receiver Keenan Allen and rapper Snoop Dogg in donating a complete set of custom Nike uniforms for each age range's team on behalf of the Chargers.
"As an NFL team in the city that you work in, it's your responsibility to give back to the people that you live [near] every day," Telesco said. "Any partnership that we can do with youth sports and youth football, I think is just wonderful. Seeing all these kids and coaches and the commitment that they put into it, whether it's their time or expertise, to be part of that is a pretty big deal for us."
The uniforms, smaller, authentic replicas of what you see Allen and his teammates don on Sundays, were provided in hopes of improving confidence and morale for a group of young athletes that will soon be playing their first organized football game in nearly two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The uniforms are our exact uniforms on a smaller, miniature size," Telesco said. "To see the kids light up, there's nothing better than to get that first uniform. They're gonna be the best-dressed team in L.A. County when you look at their jerseys and helmets. This is really cool. I know what it's like to play youth football and put the pads on and the uniforms, it's really cool for the kids and I'm glad we get to be a part of this."
"They've got something to really look up to," said Eric Thomas, coach of 6U Inglewood Chargers team. "Every week we tell them, 'Hey, go watch the Chargers on TV because that's you and that can be you someday!' It happens. They've never had anything like that. To see [the uniforms] and know that they came from the Chargers, they're big brothers, basically! It's huge for them. Their eyes light up like saucers."
Earlier this week, the Chargers and Nike finalized a donation of brand new custom uniforms for the Inglewood Chargers of the Snoop Youth Football League. Wide receiver Keenan Allen, General Manager Tom Telesco, and Rapper Snoop Dogg were all on hand to present the jerseys. The Chargers also provided funding to underwrite the registration fees of all approximately 150 players for the 2021 season.
Snoop has a personal connection to the Inglewood Chargers, which play in the Snoop Youth Football League as "Coach Snoop" heads up the 6U team. He started the league as a way to provide opportunities in football for kids who didn't previously have access.
"I've seen kids go from living on the streets to changing their entire lives," Thomas said. "I've seen kids who are going to college now who never in a million years did we think would get there, and they did through this league. When Snoop started this league, it was to help these kids because they couldn't afford to play for [other leagues.] It was too expensive. Especially when you had a single mother who had two or three kids. So he made it affordable for everyone and that was the best part of this league."
In addition to the uniforms, the Chargers also partnered with Nike to fully underwrite the registration fees for every player in the league so no parent would have to pay for their child to play football this year.
Providing access to sports at a young age is a cornerstone of the Chargers organization. Allen started playing when he was the same age as the kids on the field, and Telesco, who is a father, knows the impact youth sports has on kids' lives.
"I have three kids, two boys, and one played youth football and they're now playing high school football, so I know this is where it starts," Telesco said. "It's not just where it starts if you want to play professional football. Even if you don't play in college or high school, you learn so much from playing this sport. I talked with these kids before about the accountability of being on a team, being a great teammate, the physical and mental toughness that football takes to play, the time management … There are so many life lessons that you learn in football that I think are so special and it starts right here."
Previously known as the Inglewood Jets, the Inglewood Chargers changed their name and branding in 2018 to mirror their local NFL counterpart which now calls SoFi Stadium, just blocks from the youth league's practice fields, home.
Over the past several years, Inglewood Chargers players have been invited to participate in announcing picks in the NFL Draft, scrimmages before preseason games, and even join Zoom calls with Los Angeles Chargers players. However, this uniform and registration fee donation was by far the biggest opportunity to date.