Jesse Hernandez made his cheerleading debut in the Superdome at the New Orleans Saints home opening preseason game, and haters appeared on the internet with everything but torches and pitchforks.
Hernandez is making headlines as the first male member of the Saints’ cheerleading squad, the Saintsations. He’s now one of three in the entire NFL. The cheerleader’s mother, Tracey Hernandez, drove in from Cajun country to see Jesse take the field for the first time, and spoke to The New Orleans Advocate about his fearless committment to dance in the face of a lifetime of criticism. At her side: three family friends and a large cutout photo of the son she’s proud to call her own.
Here he is in action:
“People just need to get over it,” his mom told the press. “We’re in 2018. Things shouldn’t be just for men or just for women. If you have the ability to do it, you should be able to do it.”
Following the game, there were numerous postings of support for the 25-year old, who simply wants to put the skills and talents he’s developed in dance before the public. And why not? He’s been dancing since he was two.
And, although many football fans didn’t know it, cheerleading was largely a male-dominated activity not long before television began televising the sport.
Once The New Orleans Advocate posted its piece on Hernandez’s debut, the article’s comments section exploded with anti-gay comments. (Mind you, a search of the stories that covered Hernandez’ performance did not turn up any that declare him gay.) And it’s not as though these were posted anonymously. They appeared on Facebook, which means that under the cover of Trump-era approval, the trollers felt comfortable enough to have their hate speech linked to their actual names.
“How gay can the NFL get?” asked one poster, while another called Hernandez’ performance “the death throes of the NFL. Promoting femininity and degrading anything masculine. Just imagine this male ballerina protecting the country.”
I’m sorry: Do cheerleaders do that?
Another conflated Hernandez’ appearance with the players who choose to kneel as a sign of protest when “The Star Spangled Banner” fills the stadium. “Come for the National Anthem disrespect,” says the post, “stay for the gay dancers.” One poster just decided not to sugar-coat his reaction with attempted humor: “Buncha queers flouncing around like bitches. Sad AF.”
This is now the nation in which LGBTQ Americans see themselves as constantly under attack. And, in true Trump fashion, they don’t even consider themselves bigots.
“I do not feel ‘threatened’ by an obvious homosexual dancing at NFL games” one respondent wrote. “I feel repulsed & disgusted. I watch NFL games to be entertained, not to be held captive to the latest ‘advance’ in the homosexual ‘rights’ movement.””
And the comments rolled on and on, ranging from “Its a sign of moral decay” to “the New Orleans Saints just slapped every Muslim and Bible believing Christian in the face,” and “What male football fan wants some queer prancing around with the women?”
For his part, Hernandez was pleased with his performance, later posting on Instagram that “The Saints didn’t win but i sure did! … i can’t thank these amazing people for making my first gameday a success! The love and support from all makes my heart so happy!”
Hernandez has taught dance to high school and college dance teams as well as a minor league hockey team, and told the media he decided to audition for the Saintsations after learning that the LA Los Rams now has two male cheerleaders — Napoleon Jinnies and Quinton Peron.
By contrast, Jinnies and Peron’s debut at the Rams game last Saturday caused barely a ripple.
Last modified: August 24, 2018