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    Jonathan Romero Breaks Barriers in the NFL, Becoming the SF 49ers Only Male Cheerleader

    As CHEER SF has long demonstrated, cheerleading is a sport that often requires tremendous skill and physical prowess. So it is that the Gold Rush squad, the cheerleading arm of the San Francisco 49ers, is highly selective and always impresses on the field beyond the sexy moves and eye-catching, revealing outfits. Take a look at this year’s Gold Rush roster and you will notice a new face that might have you humming “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Other)” from Sesame Street:

    He is Jonathan Romero, an out gay man who is the only male member of the 2023 Gold Rush squad. He is one of just a handful of men and out LGBTQ+ individuals who are NFL cheerleaders.

    Photos courtesy of 49ers Gold Rush Cheerleaders

    What’s more, Romero is the squad’s Social Media Chair. As he says in his profile, he works at “creating original content and aiding in the consistency and creativity within our Gold Rush social media” beyond his efforts as a cheerleader. He also works as an interior designer for Blair Design and Interiors in Sacramento. In 2021, he earned a B.F.A. in interior architecture and worked part time as a server at Sacramento’s Iron Horse Tavern. He walks the talk of his LinkedIn page statements, where he shares that he is “detail-oriented with a strong belief in the value of hard work and resilience.”

    Outsports reports that Romero tried out for the Gold Rush as a personal practice for other auditions, having no idea that he would actually be selected for the squad.

    Jonathan Romero is a proud graduate of Sacramento State (B.F.A., interior architecture) and works as an interior designer in addition to being a Gold Rush cheerleader.

    “When I made the decision to send in an audition video, I explained to every person I told that it was a complete long shot,” Romero told Outsports. “I was using it to get more audition experience under my belt. 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 dancing is essential to his self-expression as a person and as a gay man. “Dance has always been my liberation, my happy place,” he explained.

    Romero discovered his love of dance and performing at the Sac Dance Lab in Sacramento. According to the Lab’s website, it provides “commercial dance training including styles like hip hop, heels, jazz, contemporary and jazz funk dance classes from beginner to advanced levels. With a focus on industry styles and professional dance advocacy, Sac Dance Lab is a unique, boundless place to train for aspiring and professional dancers, while welcoming non-professional enthusiasts.”

    The history of men in cheerleading is interesting, as it used to be the norm for both men and women to participate. Men were often deemed “yell leaders.” Numerous well-known individuals, such as George W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan, Kirk Douglas, and Franklin D. Roosevelt were all cheerleaders back in the day.

    So, what happened? World War II. When many young men were drafted, women filled the yell leader and other cheerleading roles. Changing social norms and leadership focused on appealing to straight cisgender men contributed to cheerleading being dominated by women. In fact, when Glenn Welt became the first male to try out as an NFL cheerleader in 1978, the Miami Dolphins would not let him compete when he arrived at the Orange Bowl in Miami. (Actor Robin Williams spoofed the controversy a year later on his television series Mork & Mindy.)

    In 1998, however, the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders began to include male stuntmen in their squad. Over a decade later, the Dallas Cowboys introduced the co-ed Rhythm & Blue Dancers, known for their dynamic hip hop dancing and acrobatic moves.

    In 2019, the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Philadelphia Eagles added males to their cheerleading squads. There are still others, but Romero is the only male member of the Gold Rush.

    LGBT community leader Colby Michaels (pictured with
    Jonathan Romero and another Gold Rush cheerleader)
    assists the 49ers staff in organizing Pride Watch Parties.

    As for other out LGBTQ NFL cheerleaders, there are not many. Making headlines recently, in addition to Romero, was Justine Lindsay, a transgender woman. This Carolina Panthers member is the first openly transgender person to cheer in the NFL.

    Whether you attend 49ers games in person or watch at home, please then cheer on Romero and the rest of the Gold Rush in addition to the football players. Romero himself is still dazzled by the spectacle and does not take his role for granted. His most memorable moments might surprise you, though.

    “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.”

    For more information about the San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush:

    Published on November 2, 2023