There is a queer takeover happening on NFL cheerleading squads, and we’re totally here for it!
The latest out LGBTQ+ cheerleader on our radar is Jonathan Romero, the first and only male cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers. Outsports published an interview Thursday with the barrier-breaker.
“Never in a million years did I think this would happen. If you told me this two years ago, I would have said you’d be lying,” he said.
That’s when Romero sent in an audition tape for the Gold Rush, the 49ers’ cheerleading team. Given the dearth of men on the roster, he didn’t expect to get called back.
But he did, and now he’s on the sidelines each week, supporting one of the best teams in the NFL.
“Rookie season has been a dream, and I will never take it for granted,” he posted early this year on Instagram. “I am so lucky and so humbled to be able to experience this with all of these incredibly talented and beautiful ladies. This season has changed my life, and [it’s] not over yet! Cheers to being faithful.”
A cheer and dance coach, Romero is one of several out gay NFL cheerleaders. The trailblazers were Napoleon Jinnies and Quinton Peron, who joined the Rams’ squad in 2018.
Now there’s a rainbow tidal wave! When the Rams made the Super Bowl in 2022, they brought five out gay cheerleaders with them. Two of those cheerleaders, Jose Capetillo and Brendan Ryan, are captains this season (and roommates)!
“It really is an honor!” Ryan told Queerty. “It’s very surreal.”
Indeed it is. As recently as 10 years ago, the idea of male cheerleaders seemed far-fetched. It was believed that NFL fans only wanted to see hot blondes and smokin’ brunettes (and not the kind we prefer).
But that was wrong. There are now dozens of male cheerleaders across the league, with the New Orleans Saints having more than 12 by themselves.
In a telling moment, the Atlanta Falcons hosted an engagement ceremony for veteran cheerleader Ben Ajani, whose boyfriend got down and proposed on one knee.
Romero told Outsports the league’s male cheerleaders share a bond.
“It’s why we’re a part of the small community of male NFL cheerleaders,” he said. “This is the end goal for a lot of people, being able to be in a community with other male cheerleaders. Now I have friends across the league.”
In addition to the Rams, the Carolina Panthers have multiple out LGBTQ+ cheerleaders on their team: Chris Crawford and Justine Lindsay. Lindsay is the first out trans cheerleader in league history.
“I’ve never been in the closet,” she told Queerty. “I’ve never shied away, and was never that person who said I was going to ‘hide behind my friend girls just so I can get into the party. It was just like, either you took me for what I was, or that was it.”
Romero feels similarly. Like other out cheerleaders, he says he’s experienced nothing but support from his coaches and teammates.
“The 49ers as an organization has treated me with unconditional love,” he said. “As a male on a primarily female team, I was nervous. But the staff, the fans, my coaches, my teammates, I’ve felt nothing but support.”
That checks out. The 49ers are maybe the most gay-friendly organization in the NFL, which isn’t surprising given where they play. They were the first team to create an LGBTQ+ fan club; and two years ago, they unveiled gender-neutral merchandise for Pride Month.
Romero feels the love at Levi’s Stadium, and enjoys nothing more than taking the moment in.
“My favorite part of game day is the national anthem,” he said. “We’re all in the end zone and it’s a sea of people, 70,000 people in the stadium. And the stadium goes completely silent. I get chills just talking about it. You get to take it all in and reflect that this is what I’m doing right now.”
It must be an enchanting experience. With the undefeated 49ers poised for another deep playoff run, Romero could be cheering deep into January, and perhaps even February.
There are many more national anthems for him to witness.
In the meantime, let’s see what this cutie has to offer…