Professional sports rosters, hockey and baseball excluded, tend to feature a steady diet of black players at every position. But while the outsized presence of young, gifted and black athletes on championship podiums has become so ubiquitous as to be reduced to an afterthought for most sports fans, black men have been largely absent from the professional cheerleading squads. For all of the young black boys who reliably turned old mattresses, blacktops and living room furniture into springboards for all types of daring tricks, few have parlayed their natural athletic ability into a future in cheerleading.
While the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams vie for a permanent place in sports lore, two black men will make NFL history before Super Bowl LIII’s coin toss.
Dancer and choreographer Quinton Peron, along with freelance makeup artist and beauty blogger Napoleon Jinnies will be the first male cheerleaders to appear at a Super Bowl when they take the field alongside the rest of the Rams’ cheer squad.
The Rams duo began the season as two of the league’s first three male cheer squad members. While the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts employ male stunt performers, their stuntmen don’t dance.
Shortly after their selection, Peron credited the Laker Girls for pushing him to take his talents to the gridiron during an interview on Good Morning America.“I was at (an L.A.) Lakers game and I was watching the Laker Girls,” Peron said. “I was asking myself, ‘Why can’t I be down there?’ I’ve choreographed for girls who dance on pro teams, I’ve danced with girls on various pro teams. I just thought, ‘why not me?’”
Last week, days from a potential storybook ending, the duo reflected on their journey to the big game.
“I don’t know what to say,” Peron said when asked to put his 10-month stint with the Rams into perspective. “It’s like a fairytale.”
“It’s been a crazy ten months,” Jinnies added while seated by teammate Emily Leibert. “[We’ve been] dancing hard and really engaging with our community. [I] can’t believe that we made it to this point.”
As luck would have it, in one last cruel twist of the non-call knife for Who Dat nation, New Orleans Saints cheerleader Jesse Hernandez, the only other male cheerleader to represent an NFL team on-field this season, could have entered history books by himself as the first male cheer squad member to take the field for a world football championship.
That’s gotta hurt.