Joey Koechling with his children north of Murrieta. Photo courtesy the Koechlings

But with nearly 95,000 petition signatures on, the Murrieta-area resident thinks he’s made his point about defending a dad skipping a halftime meeting to see his daughter dance.

“I’ll be writing up a letter this week and dropping what signatures I have off with their front office next week unless something changes,” Koechling said Tuesday.

“I’m not hopeful for the Chargers to reverse [the fine], but hopefully they can make some kind of meaningful gesture either towards Weddle or an organization of his choosing as penance, and [make] an apology.”

Who is the man behind the petition?

Koechling, planning a La Jolla wedding in mid-May, is a 29-year-old correctional deputy with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. He and his fiancée, Laniquea, have a son, nearly 4, and a daughter, 2 1/2.

Like his petition, Koechling has a long-shot favorite for president of the United States — Libertarian Gary Johnson. “Call it wishful thinking,” he says, “but I can hope, right?”

Koechling was interviewed via email in late January:

Times of San Diego: What prompted you to start the petition? When did you get the idea?
Joseph Koechling: I was actually sitting in a waiting area at a barbershop when the headline came on one of the TVs, and I thought “This is a joke, right?” I had a few minutes to kill waiting to get my haircut and I’d signed a few petitions in the past. I thought: What the heck, maybe enough people can get outraged about this for it to make a difference. If nothing else, I’ll feel better just speaking out against what I believe to be an injustice.

Joey Koechling (in Phil Rivers No. 17 jersey) with Chargers friends. Photo via Koechlings

Were you aware [Chargers punter Mike] Scifres had asked permission to attend the halftime kids show, and Weddle did not?
I read the next week about the Scifres situation. Although not entirely irrelevant, I did not see it as an “apples to apples” comparison, given the relationship between Weddle and the front office throughout the year. Also worth noting: Scifres is still under contract for another year, while the Chargers had given Weddle the proverbial “middle finger” when it came time for contract talk. While they both had been drafted by and played with the Chargers their whole careers, it seems (from the outside, of course) that they had very different relationships with the organization.

The petition had 93,000 signatures when I looked [in late January] — from around the country. How much a surprise is this?
I wish I had a measure of success to go by. I’m still not even sure what 100 signatures would mean versus 100,000. This petition business was an off-the-cuff way of venting my frustration with the ethics of the NFL as a whole, using this one shining example of what I believed to be wrong with it.

The Chargers didn’t know about the petition when I contacted them [in early January, when petition had 17,000 signers]. Did this surprise you?
I’m not even sure how any number of signatures on any petition would or could mean be to an organization like the Chargers. So it doesn’t surprise me that they were not aware of it.

What have you learned through the petition process and reaction? Have you posted other petitions?
I still haven’t learned much about the process, because I have not seen the issue addressed by the Chargers yet. I’d imagine most would gauge the success of a petition by the results, but I was just happy to see the support is strong for Weddle. He’s an amazing player and genuinely seems like a great guy. I don’t have much faith in the process, but I’m eager to see if it will have any positive impact in the end.

Have you had any contact with the Chargers — or Weddle?
I haven’t made an effort to reach out as of yet. I have a very busy home life. My wife and I both work full time and are planning for our wedding in La Jolla this May. I wasn’t sure what the steps even were for presenting something like this to them, and was hoping it would just get noticed enough to make waves.

Chargers free safety Eric Weddle kisses his daughter at Miami game. Photo via

I reached out to the staff to see if anyone of them would or could be willing to take the petition where it needs to go, but I have not heard back. Starting the petition was easy, seeing it through might be more than I’m able to do with everything on my plate right now. I was hoping someone would take the reins, but I will walk the signatures to the front office myself if no one else can. Where it goes from there I haven’t the slightest clue.

Other than giving people a chance to vent on a family values issue, what has the petition accomplished?
Nothing as of yet. I wasn’t convinced that it ever really would when I began it. … It’s gotten your attention, weeks after the story has already been declared “old news” by most, and I’d say that’s a start.

How did the people amend your original petition?
At the start of it, I literally quoted an entire newspaper article regarding the fine, and submitted that as the narrative for the petition. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be sitting in that barber’s chair, so I just thought to get it up and running as soon as possible and come back with my own writing at a later date.

Luckily, a member of the staff, Jason Barnaby, wrote up the narrative you see on there now not too long after its original submission. I didn’t feel any need to make changes, so I submitted his revised version.

At 2015 minicamp, Eric Weddle spoke of his disappointment about management decisions. Photo by Chris Stone

Do you hold any hope that the Chargers will return the $10K? If so, why?
I don’t have any hope for that. Weddle has already said he’s never speaking to the organization again, and most fans wouldn’t blame him. I’d like to see the Chargers donate an equal amount to a charity of Weddle’s choosing, and for them to apologize for how they’ve ended things with their veteran defensive captain, but I think with the potential L.A. move in their future it’s asking far too much of their attention. I believe he’s already been written off and it’s a little disheartening, to be honest.

Describe your Chargers status. Longtime fan?
I grew up in North County before moving to the [Inland Empire] when I was 12. I remember watching Stan Humphries, Leslie O’Neal, Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison. I never got to go to games as a kid, but I watched what I could on TV.

I played baseball growing up, so I was more of a fan of that, but as I got older I watched more football, got a few jerseys. Busy home life keeps me from going to the stadium, but I’ve never stopped supporting the Bolts (yes, even when they got Ryan Leaf).

If the Chargers move to L.A., will you still have a rooting interest?
Any Chargers fan you ask is going to be hurt about that decision if they do in fact go. I recently had a conversation with a co-worker, comparing the merits of following a team to another city as those of a husband or wife following their spouse with a career change. It won’t be without hurt, or temporary loathe, but I can’t quit on them. Of course, I’d prefer them to stay.

If the petition reaches 100,000, what else might you consider doing on behalf of Weddle?
Not really sure what I can do as just one fan. I know his career with San Diego is over, and I can only wish him the best on whatever city picks him up. I’ll be rooting for him even if he goes to the Raiders. I just want to see him succeed.

It’s corny, but you grow up idolizing sports stars just to have your images of them shattered by scandal, and drama. You see them fall from the impossibly high pedestals you put them on. I really believe Eric is one of the few genuine Good Guys that kids should grow up idolizing, because I believe they won’t be disappointed.