The Atlanta Bucks’ Journey to the Bingham Cup

Throughout the years we’ve noticed that bears seem to have a ‘thing’ for rugby. A perusal of any gay or inclusive rugby team lineup will invariably feature a healthy number of bears. The obvious draw of it, at first glance, would be that the sport lends itself to the inclusion of big strapping men and of course the rugby kit of shorts and knee socks are fantasy fuel for many a bear; however, I’d argue that bears are also in it for camaraderie and the atmosphere unique to rugby itself.

The game is tougher than American football, that is something universally agreed upon, and the harder the sport, the more a team has to work in perfect harmony. There is also a high value placed on sportsmanship and respect in rugby; in fact, it is foundational to all gameplay and ingrained into the very culture of the sport. Rugby players often describe their teammates as family, which is something that’s highly attractive to any gay bear looking for community. And the Atlanta Bucks are just that, a family.

The Atlanta Bucks Rugby Club was founded in July 2003, making it among the first five IGRAB (International Gay Rugby Association and Board) teams in the United States. Since creation, the Bucks have won the 2006 New York East Coast Invitational, the 2008 Bingham Cup Bowl Division in Dublin, the 2012 Bingham Cup Shield Division in Sydney, the 2017 Independence Cup at the IGR NA East Championship, and the 2019 Capitol City Bowl. Their mission is to provide a fraternal environment, without discrimination, for gay and diverse communities, to participate in the sport of rugby; an objective they can all get behind.

We sat down with Jonathan Standish, the President of Atlanta Bucks Rugby to talk about what the team means to him, the team’s journey to the Bingham Cup in Rome this May and how their partnership with BIKE Athletic (sponsor of this year’s BWM Awards) has helped push them forward.

BWM: How have you seen the ATL Rugby Club evolve since originating in 2003?

Jonathan Standish (JS): Pure growth. Since our start in 2003, our name within our community continues to grow. We have solidified ourselves as a staple rugby club within our state’s union – the Georgia Rugby Union. We have grown as leaders, friends, and allies within the larger LGBTQ+ community, both locally and abroad. More importantly, our team has grown in size and diversity. We have players from various walks of life, ages, backgrounds, and professions that come together in the spirit of camaraderie to play the sport they love.

BWM: The camaraderie of the Bucks team is inspirational. How do you think this positively affects the players and the community?

JS: The Atlanta Bucks is a unique organization in that we not only offer an outlet for sport, but we offer a place for people to call home. There is a phrase we say in rugby and that’s “with you.” On the pitch it means “I’ve got you,” “I’m behind you,” “if you go down, I’m there.” For the Bucks, when we say “with you” we mean both on and off the pitch. It means “I’m there for you” whether you like it or not: to celebrate, to mourn, to meet you on the side of the road with a car jack to help you change a tire. We are there for each other. When new people join the team, they are often surprised when they realize we stand by that idea, and the fact that we stand by what we say is what fosters the camaraderie that people see. We thoroughly enjoy being around each other both on and off the pitch.

‘With you’ also expands to our community. We take pride in our community partnerships and in our relationships with local LGBTQ+ spaces and charities. Ultimately, we want to be something our community takes pride in. Twenty years doesn’t happen by accident, we would not be around today if it wasn’t for the support of our community.

BWM: You have been sponsored by Bike Athletic for a while now – how has their partnership changed the team?

JS: We began our partnership with Bike Athletic in the spring of 2023 and it has been an amazing experience. We have absolutely loved working with the Bike team, and over the past year we’ve gotten to know them personally – which really is what made this entire experience special. I think that personal relationship is what has truly made this a partnership. They are invested in our success and growth as much as we are in theirs. Our partnership with Bike has caused the team to hone in on what it means to be a Buck. The Bucks, like Bike, is a legacy brand that was created to support the community; and so the partnership is a natural fit.

There is a level of intentionality that our partnership has required of us because ultimately we are not just a rugby team, we are also a 501(c)3 organization and a brand. When people see the Bucks we want them to think Bike in the same way that when people see Bike we want them to think Bucks. It kind of helps that we have their name written large across our game day kits – a design both sides were equally excited about. The largest impact Bike has had on the team is it has given us a common brand goal and something to rally around. The team is always so excited to sport a Bike mesh and jock out to the bar or throw on a Bike tank top and head out to the park. The guys are always eager at finding new ways to get the Bike name out there and have it paired with the Bucks.

BWM: How would you describe your experience with the ATL Bucks?

JS: The Atlanta Bucks have shaped who I am as a gay man. I found the team almost 10 years ago when I was 23. At the time I was fresh out of grad school, very new to both the gay scene here in Atlanta and new to being a gay adult in general. The Bucks gave me a safe place to explore me while challenging the gay stereotypes I had had in my head. You could be rough, tough, and mow someone down on a rugby pitch while immediately after cutting up, snapping your fingers, and popping your tongue. This juxtaposition and fearless merger of the masculine and feminine was something I never let myself embrace until I joined the team. The team gave me the freedom to figure out my identity while not allowing me to go astray and lose myself in the process – I cannot say if I would have found that level of safety and family in other spaces in this city. At the core of it, for me, being a Buck is more than just a team or an outlet for my time, it’s a family that is going to be there for me both on and off the pitch. It’s something that feels so unique and continues to shock me at how much it has become such a huge part of my life here in Atlanta.

BWM: What are upcoming events we can watch for with the ATL Bucks? 

JS: Speaking of merging the masculine and feminine, the biggest event that should be on everyone’s radar is our annual bar crawl fundraiser “The Purple Dress Run” on Saturday, April 27th here in Atlanta. Contrary to its name, it’s far from a run and, as I like to say, “more of a saunter.” Picture around 200 people gallivanting around Midtown Atlanta in Purple Dresses. For $45 presale, participants will receive 11 drink tickets to use across six different stops at local LGBTQ+ / Allied establishments throughout Midtown. For those in the local Atlanta area, tickets go on sale April 2nd and can be purchased on our website –

Outside of this event, we have our monthly bar night every 3rd Saturday of the month at sponsor bar The Atlanta Eagle. People can find us running around the bar selling Jell-O-shots to help raise money for the team.

For our June bar night, June 15th, the Bucks will be joined by our main sponsor BIKE Athletic to host a jockstrap party at the Atlanta Eagle for Pride Month. We are excited because BIKE will be sending a few representatives to help us make the event special. We will be releasing specific details on Instagram (@AtlantaBucksRFC) and Facebook (Atlanta Bucks Rugby Football Club) closer to the event.

BWM: The Bucks are going to Rome this year; tell us the details about the tournament. And how can we support the team in its fundraising goals?

JS: This Memorial Day weekend, the Atlanta Bucks are going to Rome, Italy to compete in International Gay Rugby’s (IGR) biannual Bingham Cup. This four-day long international tournament originated in 2002 and was named in honor of IGR player Mark Bingham who lost his life onboard United Flight 93 on September 11th, 2001, after fighting to take back the plane from hijackers. Mark was a pivotal figure in establishing gay rugby in the US and is forever a part of IGR’s DNA. Since its origin, the tournament evolved into a huge celebration of inclusivity in the sport of rugby. This year is expected to be the largest Bingham to date with over 2700 participants already registered. The Bucks are more than ecstatic to be a part. What is most exciting is the number of players for whom this will be their first Bingham. No words can describe the feeling of looking around and seeing all these rugby players and realizing they are just like you. There is something so humbling and unifying about it. We have been working hard since this time last year raising money with our various fundraisers including monthly bar nights, our annual drag show “Miss Ruck n Maul,” our Bachelor Auction, and then the upcoming Purple Dress Run. Those who want to support the team in our fundraising goals can purchase tickets to Purple Dress run or come out to one of our monthly bar nights if you are in the local Atlanta area. If they are not in the Atlanta area, they are welcome to donate to the team on our website at As the Atlanta Bucks are a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible.

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