Q&A: Michael Traynor of Bluff City Mafia

Bluff City Mafia (BCM), the independent supporter’s group for Memphis 901 FC, in June named the Focus® Center Foundation their first ever ‘Prideraiser’ beneficiary. Prideraiser is the coalition of independent soccer supporters that raise money for a local LGBTQ+ charity each June in celebration of Pride month. Supporters can pledge a small amount for every home goal their team scores, which will then go to support the local LGBTQ+ charities. Prideraiser, started in June 2017, has raised nearly $120,000 for various charities. This year Bluff City Mafia was able to raise $334.44. Michael Traynor, a member of BCM answered a few questions about Bluff City Mafia, the Prideraiser and their plans for the next fundraiser.

How did Bluff City Mafia get started?
Memphis 901 FC approached 2 of our capos (captains), Clayton France and Parks Russell, to let them know that a professional soccer team was starting in Memphis. Clayton was an organizer of Rogue Squadron, the supporters club for Memphis City FC, and Parks helps run the Memphis chapter of the American Outlaws. They got a group together and hashed out the concept. While we have a very good relationship with 901, the BCM is a fully independent supporters club.

What exactly does Bluff City Mafia do?
We get drunk and have a great time giving support to our boys in blue! The main goal is for the BCM to support the players, which they do by creating noise and a fun atmosphere in hopes that the rest of the crowd will join in. They will usually pre- game at the Brass Door while singing loud and proud We love you Memphis, we do. We want this love that we have to grow within the whole Memphis community.

How does organizing/planning for events work?
I’m sure Parks and Clayton would tell you that the BCM has been a lot more popular than they would have believed, so we really do need the whole group working to make it a success. There is so much that needs done behind the scenes before and during each game- organizing and painting tifos (large displays), recruiting new members, getting our drums in and out of the stadium, regular communication with the club, etc. Everyone pitches in.

What is the best part about being in Bluff City Mafia?
For me personally, it is the friendships that I have made. As a recent immigrant to the US my social group consisted of Laurie’s friends and family, so it has been invaluable to me to have now met such a fantastic group of people that have welcomed me as one of their own! There are also certain things I miss about Scotland (haggis and proper bacon), and Glasgow Celtic FC (a Scottish soccer club) is definitely one of them. To be able to go to games again just makes me miss home a little bit less.

How has Bluff City Mafia been so far?
The social side has been great. The results on the pitch have been mixed! That is part of the experience though, you get to share the emotional highs and lows with your mates. Both 901 and the BCM are new, so we are all learning our way as the season progresses, but that’s the same with any family.

What else is going on with Bluff City Mafia currently?
On top of just going to games, we want to be a force for good in the community, which is part of the reason we ran with the Prideraiser campaign. Look out for other campaigns throughout the year.

What made Bluff City Mafia pick the Focus Center Foundation for Prideraiser?
We were looking for an organization that would have both a positive impact on the LGBTQ+ community and had the presence to help promote the campaign. My research directed me to the Focus Center Foundation and the great work that you all do in helping promote LGBTQ+ rights and awareness. I reached out to Rico and his response made me realize what a great partnership we could have. We are delighted you agreed to take part.

What was the response when you announced wanting to do the Prideraiser?
99.3% positive and supportive. I’m fairly new here, but I have no doubt that the LGBTQ+ community isn’t the most embraced group in Memphis, so we did get a few negative comments on social media. That aside, many new people of all sexual orientations came and joined us in the pub, in our march to the stadium, at the game and only had positive things to say. One member of the community, who proudly stood on the dugout and let off pride smoke, told us that he would never have dreamed of doing something like that before now, so if that is the only positive thing to come from the campaign then it has been a success in my eyes.

Anything else we need to know?
Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. If we all think about that before acting or opening our mouth, then we will be one step closer to the American dream. Oh, and fuck cancer (see below).

Traynor and the Bluff City Mafia have a strong passion for soccer, Memphis and its people. Bluff City Mafia will be a part of next year’s Prideraiser alongside the Focus Center Foundation. Traynor is excited and hopes this can be a positive and ongoing partnership with Focus and that the team can score a few more goals next year.

He says that right now all their focus is on a BCM family member, Magan Hall, who
was recently diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. They are helping raise money for Hall and her family. As part of this fundraiser, they are also selling shirts to be worn to the blackout game that’s on September 7. He suggests following their hashtags on social media for more details – #magansmafia #magansfightclub #fuckcancer