In an unexpected yet historical way to kick off Pride Month, the Carolina Panthers just made history with the franchise’s new team cheerleader. It has been confirmed that Justine Lindsay is now the first openly transgender cheerleader for an NFL team—and she will officially be putting on a black and blue uniform come football season for the Carolina Panthers.
@BuzzFeedNews reports, 29-year-old Justine Lindsay has a lot to celebrate these days and it’s all thanks to the TopCats, the cheerleading squad for the Carolina Panthers. Setting a new tone for representation in the NFL, Lindsay is now the very first openly transgender cheerleader in the league’s history. In a post on her Instagram account announcing her ground-breaking new role, she wrote, “Cats Out the Bag you are looking at the newest member of the Carolina Panthers TopCats Cheerleader’s @topcats as the first Transgender female.”
Speaking about her feelings during her first interview since announcing to the world that she is transgender, Justine Lindsay said “I was so scared. There’s just some things you can’t post. I just felt like when I posted it, whatever reaction I get from everyone, it does not matter. And then my phone started blowing up.” She also added that she is very pleased to be able to “break down that door” for future transgender cheerleaders who come after her.
The director of the Carolina Panthers TopCats, Chandalae Lanouette, said that although Lindsay disclosed she was transgender on her application, she was chosen for the squad based solely on her talent and not as a diversity hire.
“My goal is to create a team of individuals that are absolute fire on the field but are incredible human beings in the locker room, good friends, good people, and at the end of the day, you have to walk through the door first to get to that spot,” Lanouette stated.
It’s only been within the last few years that NFL cheerleading squads have started to actively add more diversity to team rosters—such as finally allowing men to cheer. However, progress has been considerably slower for women, as most NFL cheerleaders have the “all-American” standard of beauty, which usually leaves out people of color and those with different body types or genders.
Justine Lindsay hopes that by making history with the Carolina Panthers, she will finally change things once and for all.
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