The Los Angeles Rams may not have won the Super Bowl, but the team’s two male cheerleaders still made history.
Quinton Peron and Napolean Jinnies became the first men to perform as part of a cheerleading squad at a Super Bowl game on Sunday night (February 3).
The pair, who both joined the Rams’ formerly all-female cheerleading squad at the start of the 2018 season, largely went unnoticed on the night, with millions tuning in for the TV event unaware of their historic inclusion.
The two cheerleaders both gave it their all cheering for the Rams at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia—although the team eventually lost to the New England Patriots by 3-13.
The pair performed in a custom Rams cheerleading uniform that excludes the pom poms and skirt of the female variant, but still allowed the two dancers to blend in with their colleagues.
Speaking to the LA Times ahead of the game, Jinnies said the experience had been an “upwards journey of excitement.”
Peron added that the team mentality had helped them overcome any negativity, adding: “Whatever has been out there we’ve been able to take it, because we know who has our backs.
“Our family has our backs, our girls have our backs and the city of LA, they’ve got us.”
The pair were not specifically recruited by the Rams, trying out for the team through the usual process and getting picked due to their natural talent.
“I want to prove that boys can dance, too.”
— Quinton Peron
Speaking as he joined the squad in 2018, Peron said: “I want to prove that boys can dance, too. After college we’re not given a choice or a chance to do anything after. We’re, like, just told to get a 9-to-5 job and that’s it, but that doesn’t work for me!
“I am an artist, I am a creative person… and we can do it, we can hang with the girls!”
Los Angles Rams said male cheerleaders ‘will fit in’ ahead of Super Bowl
Rams cheerleading captain Emily Leibert told ABC at the time: “They really just fit the bill to be a Los Angeles Rams cheerleader.
“They are intelligent, they are eloquent, they are more than qualified to be ambassadors out in the community.
“They bring so much energy, and there’s something so magnetic about their performance, you really can’t take your eyes off them.”
Of the auditions to join the squad, Jinnies said: “They were unlike anything I’ve ever been to. I’m used to getting a call after or an email… this one was about three weeks long and we had a bunch of rehearsals in between and an extensive interview process.
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“It was really humbling and amazing to be invited every time you came back.”
Other teams including the New Orleans Saints also have male cheerleaders, but the Rams are the first mixed-gender cheerleader team to compete at the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl challengers Los Angeles Rams: NFL’s most LGBT-inclusive team
The Los Angles Rams have a long history as one of the NFL’s most inclusive clubs, with gay NFL star Michael Sam drafted to the Rams squad in 2014.
Sam was the first openly gay player in NFL history, and has since opened up about experiencing mental health problems as a result of the intense media focus.
The player was later cut from the Rams squad, and announced his retirement from the sport in 2015 after stints with the Dallas Cowboys and Montreal Alouettes.
In 2017, the Los Angeles Rams become the first team to sponsor an LGBT Pride event.
The LA-based team sponsored the Venice Pride event in Venice Beach, Los Angeles.
Molly Higgins, VP of Community Affairs for the Los Angeles Rams, said: “We are proud to work with Venice Pride and to stand in alignment with the LGBT community that is such an important part of the fabric of Los Angeles.
“Inclusion has always been a valued part of our organization and we see this as a unique way to publicly celebrate the diversity that makes this community so special.”