LaDanian Tomlinson
San Diego Charger running back LaDainian Tomlinson addresses the crowd during the NFL football game between the Tennessee Titans and the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 06, 2016, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Tom Walko/Icon Sportswire)

Football Hall of Famer and former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson is pleading with Chargers fans to come back and forgive the team.

Tomlinson, who was hired by Chargers owner Dean Spanos to “develop fan engagement” for the team, appeared on ex-Chargers linebacker Billy Ray Smith’s podcast show Friday said the team needs them “badly.”

“I think you follow your team no matter what,” he said. “It’s not like Oakland, who’s going to another state. We are still in the same state. We’re still in Southern California. We’re still Southern California’s team. Yes, we might not be in San Diego no more but we are Southern California’s team. We need their support badly. We really do. Our players need to feel their support. Just like they always have.”

When the Chargers left San Diego in 2016, the organization didn’t make any effort to hold on to its San Diego fan base. In their first season in Los Angeles, the Chargers the motto was “Fight for L.A.” It seems, they should have fought to keep San Diego fans.

Playing in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center, their temporary home until the Los Angeles Stadium in Inglewood is built, the Chargers regularly have trouble getting fans to fill the seats. If it weren’t the opposing teams’ fans, most of the stadium would be empty.

And it’s not just that fans aren’t making the 90-minute drive north, they’re not tuning in as well. Chargers ratings have continued to slide since they left San Diego. Between 2004 and 2016, the average season ratings for the Chargers range from a high of 31.6 in 2010 to a low of 24.4 in 2016.

Last year, the highest rated game was against Denver on Monday Night Football (17.7). That slide continues this season with the Chargers’ season opener against Kansas City Chief drew an 11.7 Nielsen rating.

“I know it takes time to forgive,” Tomlinson said. “But I’m asking you, our fans, to forgive at this point and please come out and support the team.”

To further support his case, Tomlinson said he, too, was angry when the Chargers released him in 2010 but forgave the team because “at the end of the day, I still care about the organization.”

“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Only time will tell if Tomlinson is right, but reactions from San Diegans online after the podcast was posted was nothing short of brutal.

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