Editor’s Note: This article first published in 2019.
The Los Angeles Rams made history three years ago with two out gay male cheerleaders on their sideline for Super Bowl LIII.
This year, they’ll have five.
Captains Quinton and Napoleon, who were rookies during the 2018 season, are back for Super Bowl LVI. They’ll be joined by newcomers Eswinn, Brendan and Jose.
“It’s the biggest badge of honor. I feel like this is the dream team,” Quinton said Friday. “We have so much representation and diversity on this team, and we’re so inclusive. Also, who gets to say they’ve been to two Super Bowls in four years? Not many people can say that.”
That’s certainly true. Not many people can also say they’re on an NFL cheerleading team with two out gay captains. Jose remembers watching Quinton and Napoleon on “Good Morning America” as a teenager, and how their success showed him that his dreams can come true, too.
On Sunday, Jose knows he’ll be doing the same for other LGBTQ kids out there, whether they’re dancers or not.
“It’s a really great feeling to become the representation I wanted so badly as a kid,” he said. “When I’m there on the field, on the stage, where I am performing, I’m doing it for myself and my younger self, but I’m also doing it for the kids like me who so desperately wanted to see themselves represented somewhere in a space where they so badly wanted to be.”
Jose and Brendan, both of whom are 22, made their first trip out to Los Angeles so they could try out for the Rams. It’s safe to say they wouldn’t have purchased those tickets if it wasn’t for their two trailblazing captains.
“I still pinch myself,” Brendan said. “I remember watching Quinton and Napoleon on ‘Good Morning America,’ and now they’re sleeping over at our house in between practice. I get to call these men who were my idols my best friends now. It still feels so surreal.”
Quinton penned his coming-out story for Outsports in 2019, and highlighted how momentous it is to cheer for an NFL team as an out gay man. His visibility has certainly made a big difference.
This season, 11 clubs had male cheerleaders. Outsports recently profiled two out Carolina Panthers cheerleaders, Tre’ Booker and Chris Crawford.
Ben Ajani, an out gay cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons, got engaged at the last game of the season.
As more male cheerleaders make it into the NFL, outdated stereotypes are thankfully fading.
“It really did start with the Rams, and it started with these two men here, Quinton and Napoleon,” said Jose. “I think it’s a great point to note it started with Black queer men.”
There is strength in numbers. While the first Super Bowl will always be special for Napoleon, this one carries even more meaning.
“I feel like we’re bringing this army of out gay proud men with us,” he said. “It’s like a dream.”
Kick-off for Super Bowl LVI between the Rams and Cincinnati Bengals is Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET.