Justine Lindsay, NFL’s first openly trans cheerleader, thanks Panthers, ‘haters’

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Carolina Panthers TopCats cheerleader Justine Lindsay said she came out as trans to the team and others when she announced she made the squad for the 2022 season. Photo by Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

June 7 (UPI) — Justine Lindsay, who became the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader when she recently made the Carolina Panthers TopCats team, addressed her critics and thanked the NFC South franchise in an Instagram post.

Lindsay announced in March that she made the team. She followed that post with another Monday on the social media platform.

“Thank you to all my haters who think I’m bringing the organization down; clearly, I don’t,” Lindsay wrote for the caption. “The Carolina Panthers organization is an excellent one, one that supports all people White, Black, yellow, trans, straight, etc.

“At the end of the day, myself and the other 29 members of the TopCats made the squad fair and square.”

Justine Lindsay, the NFL’s first openly transgender cheerleader, says she hopes to continue “paving the way” for others who are “scared and afraid.” Photo by Krista Jasso/Carolina Panthers

Lindsay, 29, said she will continue “paving the way” for others who are scared or afraid due to “ignorant people.” Several of Lindsay’s recent cheerleading posts generated hundreds of comments, including many negative remarks aimed at the new member of the TopCats.

“I will continue to be that pioneer,” Lindsay wrote. “I will continue to inspire and help my African American beautiful trans sisters until my last breath. So please mind your manners and understand that if you can’t say anything nice, please keep it to yourself.”

Lindsay told BuzzFeed News last week that her March post also served as an avenue to come out as trans to her new teammates and others.

“I was so scared,” Lindsay, 29, told BuzzFeed. “There’s just some things you can’t post.”

The TopCats posted their full 30-person roster on the Panthers’ official website. The cheerleading roster also features two men. The TopCats held tryouts in late March at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

Interested candidates started the process with video submissions. They then participated in several rehearsals, interviews and rounds of competition.

The Panthers cheerleaders will make appearances at schools, hospitals, charitable events and corporate functions, in addition to game performances.

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