As part of the Rams Inspire Change efforts, Rams Studios and Nike produced a short film of a roundtable discussion featuring Rams Cheerleaders and Jarvis Sam, Nike's Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion.
"You all do so much more than what we see happening, that's the beauty of learning your stories and hearing so much about your experiences. From a fan perspective, we only get to see one element of you. The beauty of your backgrounds, your identities, and your stories sometimes go a little too unnoticed," said Jarvis as he welcomed Rams Cheerleaders Eswinn D., Jacqueline W., Napoleon J. and Tara S. to the table to explore identity awareness, the importance of representation, the reality of intersectionality, mental health, and the impacts of cheer and dance.
The Rams have been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion efforts throughout the team's storied past. In 2018, the Rams made history by being the first NFL team to have male cheerleaders Napoleon and Quinton participate in on-field dance performances.
"I think diving deeper into the organization and learning more about how they've always supported LGBTQ+IA… it was this perfect match," said Napoleon as he explained his experience being one of the first male cheerleaders in the NFL.
Today, the Rams Cheerleading squad has five openly gay male cheerleaders and a team that reflects the diverse Los Angeles community. During the discussion, the group explored the ripple effects of fostering inclusivity.
"In seeing Napoleon and Quinton, you started to see racial identity come to life in cheer. There's a lot of great studies, research and articles about the racialization of cheer," said Jarvis as he explained the importance of representation.
"I wasn't used to any type of diversity so when I came to tryouts, there was such a diverse group of people and I was like 'Okay, this feels good, this feels like home.' It's definitely not something that I'm used to," said Tara.
The Rams Cheerleading team offers a sense of belonging for its members by constantly celebrating their multitude of identities.
"Because of this team I feel like I've blossomed a little bit more, but prior to that, it was really tough for me," said Eswinn. "I feel like dance, that was an outlet for me… I found what I loved and with that, I was able to express myself a little better."
With the love for dance as their common denominator, the stories shared amongst the group emphasized resilience and how to find strength through adversity caused by anxiety and self-doubt.
"I feel like I wasted so much time being scared to believe in myself and scared to even try," said Jacqueline. "It always took someone else saying, 'You got this,' for me to be like 'Okay maybe,' and still there was always that voice. I think just finding that thing, whatever it is when you're younger or maybe when you're older, that gives back to you and you think, 'Hmm I need to stick with this. I don't know why yet but I'm going to stick with it,' and for me that was dance. I'm so glad I did because it's given me so much. So, I think just keep saying yes and enough with the self-doubt."
Their stories and the inspiration the Rams have provided prove that pushing the envelope and deconstructing stereotypes will advance access and equity in sports.
"The Rams Cheerleading organization continues to showcase the power and impact of sport to change the world. If other teams continue to adopt it, we will certainly see a very powerful opportunity where sport becomes a conduit for real change, togetherness and community building," said Jarvis as he closed the conversation.
To watch the full roundtable discussion, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAE3HTdDYBc.
From home opener to Super Bowl LVI, take a look through photos of the Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders' best moments from the 2021 season.