The Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts have male stuntmen, but the LA Rams made history in 2018 by adding the only male dancers on a professional NFL team.
Two men, both classically trained dancers, tried out for the 40-member squad for the 2018 year. They made it to the round of 76 finalists and were finally selected to represent the Rams for the 2018 season on the official dance team.
Who Are These Guys?
The two men in question are California natives Quinton Peron and Napolean Jinnies.
Peron, an athletic child in school, always knew he was different. He played baseball and basketball in an effort to fit in. In interviews, he now shares that he didn’t start to feel comfortable in his own skin until his senior year of high school when he came out as gay. At that point, he felt free to explore other athletic options, such as dance. He began to study dance and found his true passion, quitting the basketball team and joining the dance studio down the street.
Jinnies, a beauty blogger and makeup artist, is also a student of dance, having studied the discipline at the West Coast School of the Arts and Orange Coast College. A veteran performer who formerly worked at Disneyland, Jinnies, like Peron, suffered bullies and abuse for his homosexuality as a youth but did not let that stop him from pursuing dance at a young age.
Both men watched professional cheerleaders, thinking, “Why can’t I do that?” They decided to show up for auditions along with everyone else.
What is the Audition Process Like?
The audition process has been described as “grueling.” Unlike the single-day auditions that both men were used to as professional dancers, the LA Rams cheerleader auditions are a full three weeks long. There are rehearsals, cuts, more rehearsals and long hours of practice.
There is also an extensive interview process. As the dance team captain notes, the men were chosen for more than just their dancing ability (though of course, their dancing ability is top-notch). Team captain Emily describes Jinnies and Peron as intelligent, eloquent and perfectly suited to be ambassadors in the community for the dance team and the football team.
What Has the Reaction Been?
Both Jinnies and Peron were worried about what the reaction to their inclusion on the team might be. They were worried about bullying from fans and the wider community.
It is true that some reacted with a skeptical “WTF?” and predicted ratings “disasters” for the team. Most of the reaction, however, has been either indifferent or positive. Even the most negative opinion columns and pundits couldn’t seem to gain much traction in the face of the energy and enthusiasm of Jinnies and Peron.
The Rams, as we all know, made it to the Superbowl in January of 2019. This means that Jinnies and Peron weren’t just the first men to dance on the cheerleading squad of an NFL team, but they were also the first male cheerleaders to dance at a Superbowl.
Peron, speaking in 2019, said that as he walked out on the field for the Superbowl, he felt like he was representing all young people who feel like they shouldn’t try something because it is different. He asks all young people to not only dream any dream they want but also to embrace the truth of who they are.
Is This the Way of the Future?
Especially given the generally positive reaction to the inclusion of men on the LA Rams Spirit Squad, it’s very possible that we will see other teams add men to their dance teams or open up the possibility for more than just a standard version of the “hot babe” that one male columnist insisted was the only thing he wanted to see.
The NFL has dealt with devastating findings on concussions, domestic violence by its players and racial bias coach hiring. It’s also just working its way through the Colin Kaepernick controversy and may not be willing to take on another debate about masculinity and femininity, inclusion and acceptance. Some see pro football as nothing more than an escapist endeavor that allows people not to think about thorny problems of race, gender and domestic violence.
Time will tell if Jinnies and Peron are just a short-lived experiment or the vanguard of a long and proud tradition of mixed-gender dance teams in the NFL.