A number of disturbing stories regarding the National Football League’s treatment of cheerleaders have emerged during recent months — not least of which were allegations of unfair pay and strict regulations that reportedly included explicit instructions on how to wash their ‘intimate areas.’ But in a move that many hope will signal a more progressive attitude toward team dancers in the league, three male dancers have made the cut during recent cheerleading tryouts — a first since teams in the league began incorporating cheer squads in 1954. While two of the league’s 26 teams with cheerleaders — the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts — had previously included men who participated in stunts, this year will be the first that male cheerleaders will dance alongside the women.
Dancers Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies, who made the final squad for the Los Angeles Rams, and dancer Jesse Hernandez, who earned a spot as a dancer for the New Orleans Saints, were ecstatic following their recent breakthrough into the league.
“Still can’t believe I’m one of the first males in history to be a pro NFL cheerleader!” wrote Jinnies in a tweet.
“I thought, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I do this?’” said Peron in comments made to Good Morning America earlier this year.
— Napoleon Jinnies (@NapoleonJinnies) July 31, 2018
In a video for local news station KATC, Hernandez said that seeing Jinnies’ and Peron’s success had encouraged him to follow his own dream of being a cheerleader himself.
“My mom had sent me a link about the L.A. Rams male cheerleaders that had just made the team a couple weeks ago, and she told me it was my time to shine,” said Hernandez. “Everyone has been awesome and, [with] open arms, came and expressed their love to me.”
Watch video of Peron’s and Jinnies’ appearance on GMA below.