Atlanta United’s supporters' community is as expansive and wide-ranging as the players wearing their crest, and the metropolis that crest represents. This year for Pride Month, Atlanta’s official LGBTQ+ supporters' group, All Stripes, is making sure that the broader community knows they are there, they are proud, and everyone is welcome to join the fun.
Speaking with All Stripes president Norbert Birman over Zoom, concepts of fun and team support are couched within the more logistical, mission-focused prongs of their passion: volunteer work, community support and philanthropy. The group is building on those pillars during this year’s Pride Month by hosting events that reach the fanbase and bring them in.
It’s an LGBTQ+-focused supporters' group, but everyone is welcome, including allies and champions, said Birman before adding: “We say rowdy and proud, here in Atlanta and that's quite literally what we're trying to do from a Pride standpoint.”
That “rowdy and proud” approach to strengthening their visibility in the fanbase includes a busy month of events highlighted by the club’s June 10 Pride Match, which Birman was still eagerly working on at the time he spoke with MLSsoccer.com.
“I'm honestly really looking forward to our Pride tailgate," Birman said. "We're gonna have a drag queen at it. We have invited Atlanta Freedom Bands, which is an LGBT marching band, and they are going to be joining ‘the pit,' which is what our drum corps, drum lines and everything are called. And they're going to join us. So we're really trying... this is the first year we're really trying to have like this massive presence.”
Founded in love
All Stripes was founded in 2018 and have grown significantly since, in part through that in-stadium and pre-game visibility. Birman estimated the group has at least 400 members now, and that he found the first of them himself just by spotting them in the stands.
In fact, Birman fell in love with the sport in part due to the passion of soccer fans, which he feels there’s nothing quite like. His second date with his now-husband was at an Atlanta United match.
“I was hooked from there,” he said.
The supporters’ group have officially been recognized by Atlanta United in the past year, said Birman, following a formal application process that includes verification of their mission, philanthropy, membership and more. All Stripes were ushered into the family as an official “SG” alongside La 12 de Atlanta, who bill themselves as “the official Latino supporter group” at the club.
According to Birman, La 12 and All Stripes collaborate – in addition to all the other SGs at the club – to co-host tailgates, coordinate tifos, and just generally grow the rowdy atmosphere supporting their team on the field. Birman added that the front office and club itself have been very supportive of all of Atlanta’s SGs, and All Stripes in particular, often coming to them for feedback on anything from philanthropy support to language consultation when trying to reach their LGBTQ+ fans.
“There are times as well that we end up working with the same groups as the team, like Soccer in the Streets,” said Birman. “Atlanta United does a lot of work with [them] and we do as well. We'll have them at our tailgates with a tent. You know, when they have tournaments, we're looking to folks in the community and the supporters' group community for us to like, say, ‘Hey, Soccer in the Streets are having an event and need some volunteers, or, they're having a tournament. Let's build a team and send it out there.’
"And we try to do things outside of soccer as well. We have every year for the Pride, Walk, Run. We have a team enter. They just did it last Sunday and we did fundraising around that.”
Representation and unity
As the club grows with its supporters' group, All Stripes are looking forward to growing alongside them – including during, but also past, past Pride Month. They see themselves as a visible refuge, a welcoming community, a rowdy supporters' group, and a key part of the unique mosaic that comprises soccer supporters in the United States. It’s a unique element to soccer fandom, Birman said, one he hopes can spread to other sports.
“I just think it's important, you know, to make sure that we're continuing to spread the word of the community and let people spread the word that there is a safe space, and not just not soccer and football, but like all sports," he said. "I would love to see this kind of thing, teams embrace communities, the way we felt like we've been embraced by Atlanta United.”
There’s not a formal mission statement for All Stripes, but Birman laid out his unofficial version.
“I think it just boils down to just creating a safe and inclusive space for the community, where they know you are welcome here regardless of what letter in the alphabet you ascribe to you, you have family, you have a safe space," said Birman.
“So that's really what it is, especially in sport where a lot of fans, you know, don't see… a lot of the LGBT fans don't see themselves represented on the field unfortunately, for whatever reason. So I think it's important for LGBT fans to know that they are allowed to be fans of sport and be proud of themselves and their identity at the same time.”
Beyond representation, Birman feels the group can provide a framework for unity within and beyond the fandom of the game.
“Really just let everyone know that we are here," he stressed. "Especially with everything going on politically these days, just to let people know we are here. We are loud. We are passionate about the same things. And there's no reason to, you know, have all these disagreements.”