Angel City FC opens its inaugural season in the National Women’s Soccer League on Friday, and the club has placed LGBTQ inclusion and outreach front-and-center in its mission.
Recently the club hosted a week-long conference, bringing together executives from eight professional soccer teams in North America to talk and learn about LGBTQ inclusion, in conjunction with Common Goal and the Play Proud project. The program engages executives in 100 hours of LGBTQ-inclusion training, designed to bring meaningful LGBTQ inclusion efforts to the sport.
“I am proud to say we’ve built a diverse and inclusive team here with representation in our leadership team, on the operational side, as well as with the larger community we’re building,” said Julie Uhrman, ACFC co-founder and president.
Uhrman herself is gay and lives in Los Angeles with her two kids. Angela Hucles Mangano is also out; The former USWNT player is now the head of player development and operations for the club. Chris Fajardo, a longtime fixture in LGBTQ soccer, is senior director of community impact; Kim McCauley is director of scouting and analytics.
In addition, the club also has out LGBTQ athletes including DiDi Haračić and Paige Nielsen.
“Angel City was built on the idea where mission and capital can coexist,” Uhrman said. “Natalie Portman was was very clear that she wanted the organization to have meaning and purpose.”
Portman — an actress in films like Black Swan and Star Wars — is one of the club’s co-founders, along with Uhrman and Kara Nortman. Most of the individual investors in the club are women.
“When we look at aspects of the community that don’t get equal representation or are hurt, that’s what we want to attack,” Uhrman said. “The reality is soccer has the platform to do that, to really take a stand on things that are important to us.”
The club will participate in Pride marches in both West Hollywood and Los Angeles, in addition to sponsoring the local Trans Pride and volunteering at a Pride Picnic, all in June. Over the next few weeks the club will be engaged in writing a code of conduct for fans and creating inclusivity training for coach and youth training.
“Angel City” refers to the English translation of “Los Angeles” — “the angels” — and the city referred to as “The City of Angels.” The Anaheim Angels took their name from the city’s monicker.
Also of interest, the ACFC kicks off its inaugural NWSL season this Friday when they host the North Carolina Courage. Some fans of the Courage were rocked months ago when it was announced Jaelene Daniels — who has expressed opposition to same-sex relationships — was re-signed by the club.
Uhrman took an inclusive, nuanced approach saying that people of all identities and beliefs.
“We will support our players so that it doesn’t impinge on anyone’s ability to live their lives,” she said.
Some fans of the Courage and NWSL tried to get Daniels released, but the Courage have kept her on the roster; They were able to end the NWSL career of draft pick Sydny Nasello before it started.
ACFC is also present with the homophobic “puto” chant, which has marred various matches in Major League Soccer and on the international stage. Uhrman said the club will follow a tiered approach to addressing the chant if it occurs. If initial steps aren’t able to curb the chant, Uhrman said the club is ready and willing to walk off the pitch rather than hear the chant.
They will not tolerate homophobic chants from fans.
“We do what we say,” Uhrman said. “It’s important we share our values and live our values.”
ACFC will host a Pride Night on June 15 when they host the Houston Dash. ACFC plays in Banc of California Stadium, the same location as Major League Soccer’s LAFC. Tickets to matches can be found for as low as $14.