One of the producers of The CW’s new series “All American” — a show about a high school football player — has vivid memories of playing soccer at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.
“The fans up there are brutal sometimes,” said Robbie Rogers, whose MLS career included four years and one title in Columbus and four years and a second title with the L.A. Galaxy. “That’s interesting to me, because you think people in Utah are going to be nice.”
All opposing soccer players get heckled when they’re on the road; Rogers got homophobic slurs thrown at him after he came out in 2013 and joined the Galaxy. Including in Rio Tinto Stadium.
He doesn’t recall any specific incidents from Real Salt Lake fans. But they happened. My daughters told a fan seated behind them at one game that they’d call security if he didn’t stop yelling homophobic insults. (He stopped.)
That happened in other opponents’ stadiums as well. Rogers recalled one game when “someone said something really homophobic and all the fans turned on him right away. It was really amazing to be playing with the Galaxy and have the support of fans there just as a human.”
He brushed off a lot of the heckling.
“It was [fans] trying to get under your skin, like they do with every player,” he said. “So a lot of times I would just get on with it. But there were a few times when it got out of hand.
“I mean, of course you want me to lose. I totally get that. But when it gets to that kind of level — whether it’s sexism, racism, homophobia — that kind of stuff just doesn’t belong in sports.”
Rogers officially retired from the Galaxy a year ago, although, due to injuries, he last played in 2016. He’s since joined the family business — “All American” is produced by his husband’s company.
That would be uber producer Greg Berlanti, whose current crop of shows includes “Arrow,” “Black Lightning,” “DC's Legends of Tomorrow,” “The Flash,” “Riverdale” and “Supergirl” on The CW; “God Friended Me” on CBS; “Blindspot” on NBC; “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” on Netflix”; “You” on Lifetime; and “Titans” on DC Universe.
(Berlanti also has a Utah tie — his 2002-06 series “Everwood” was produced here.)
Rogers helped develop “All American” (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., CW/Channel 30), which is based on the life of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger, who grew up in South Central and played football for Beverly Hills High. And the soccer player and the football player quickly hit it off.
“We first started talking about injuries,” Rogers said. “And traveling and just what goes into being a professional athlete. So there were a lot of things that I related to on that level. And he’s a dad like I am, so we first started joking about all that stuff.”
(Rogers and Berlanti are the parents of 2-year-old Caleb.)
“When he started talking to me about feeling like an outsider in Beverly Hills and eventually an outsider in South Central, that’s when I started to really emotionally connect with that story,” Rogers said. “I know what it’s like to be a gay man in professional sports, and also coming out at the age of 24 you don’t know what it is to be a gay man. I was an outsider. I just so felt for his story.”
Rogers is a non-writing producer on “All American,” although he’s often in the writers room. And he’s involved in all aspects of the production.
“I kind of go where I'm needed,” he said. “I've learned a lot from Greg, but it's also been such a great learning experience.”
The one thing he has no plans to do is add “All American” to his short list of acting credits, which includes an appearance as himself in an episode of the sitcom “The Real O’Neals” and a very small part as a soccer coach in the film “Love, Simon,” which Berlanti directed.
“I hate acting,” he said. “I know [the ‘Love, Simon’ role] wasn’t really acting. I was just standing around.”
And that's what he hated about it.
“I’m not patient. I like to be actually doing something,” he said — not waiting for the next shot to be set up. “But I’m so happy I’m part of that movie, because it’s the most beautiful movie.”
And Rogers acknowledged that it's “weird” that he has such an aversion to taking on even minor roles on camera.
“I’ve been in the spotlight in soccer for a long time, but I much prefer to be in the writers room or production meetings or whatever,” he said.