“I’m here to cheer:” Being a BIPOC male cheerleader

Junior Kellen Newman carries a teammate on one shoulder during a practice. Lauren Hough.

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What image do you usually get when you picture a cheerleader in the head? The majority of peopleWould you imagine a white? female who is small in stature yet feminine; adheres to westernized notions of beauty; has long, often blonde hair that manages not to interfere with her athleticism … ”

From the outside, it might seem like only women cheerleaders. It is well-known that being a man in the sport can lead to homophobic and sexist attitudes. Stereotypes. Three Butler men cheerleaders are showing that cheerleading is for everyone, despite the criticisms they may receive.

Nate Corrales, Kellen Newman Noah LipscombAll the Butler co-ed cheer squad members have unique stories about how they came to be part of the team. Corrales, a senior business technology major, is in his third season cheering for Bulldogs. Mattie Neely invited him to join an open gym as a teammate during his sophomore year.

“I didn’t really think anything of it [at first],” Corrales said. “We have a mutual friend … and I went and watched her cheer. I thought it was so cool. I was like, ‘It’s beautiful, but it’s also kind of brute.’”

This is the first season for Lipscomb and Newman. Newman, a junior major in entrepreneurship and innovation, said that he has always wanted cheer.

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“I felt like there was no better time than college to just finally go for my dream,”Newman said. “So I tried out as a junior, and now I’m here, and I’m in love with it. It’s such a thrill. It’s such a drive; it’s the competitive nature that I’ve been missing. But it’s like competing with yourself.”

Lipscomb, a first year elementary education major, is the youngest of the trio. He was recruited by Corrales’ teammate, but that person was a coach at his high school.

“Cole Bonewit, he’s the assistant coach here, and he also works at my [high] school,”Lipscomb stated. “He knew that I was a wrestler …  and he thought I was physically able to try out, so I came down and gave it a shot. Tryouts [were] the first time I had ever cheered. I guess I showed [them] something that they like, so they asked me to come back, and I’ve been coming back ever since.”

Lipscomb stated that cheerleading is a popular sport for athletes from other athletics. Newman, a high school tri-sport athlete in track, football and lacrosse, shares the same sentiment.

“[Cheer] is a bunch of little things that add up perfectly,”Newman said. “And I think playing other sports, it’s very different, but at the same time it all plays into the same [thing]. If you have the mindset, you will succeed.” 

Senior Nate Corrales has been on the Butler cheerleading team for three seasons. Lauren Hough.

Corrales doesn’t have an athletic background like the others, but credits the time he took off from school as what helped him ease into the sport.

“That was a really big shift for me,” Corrales said. “I was an artsy kid growing up. I would say before college, during my gap year, I learned about being detail oriented and how things take a long time to become great. You got to worry about the little details … that’s how you get better, and that’s how you keep pushing.”

Cheerleaders go through a lot. It is not easy to be a cheerleader. As all three agreed, game days make it all worthwhile.

“Game days are absolutely the best,” Corrales said. “I think during practice, it’s very much so business. It’s ‘let’s hit stunts, let’s progress.’ But when it comes to game day, everybody’s happy face comes out. We’re just out there having a good time.”

Lipscomb’s first experience of a game day came recently at the Butler football game vs. St. Thomas September 3. He said that he was astonished to have seen cheerleading from this side.

“I didn’t realize how big of a role that cheerleaders do play in the overall morale of the game,”Lipscomb stated. “It’s our job to not just to stunt and throw people up and catch them and all that stuff. It’s also to improve the morale of our fans so that our team has something to play for.”

One of the stereotypes associated with being a male cheerleader is that you must be gay to cheer. Being blanketed as a monolith is something that not just men cheerleaders face on a daily basis, it’s what BIPOC — Black, indigenous and people of color — also face day after day. It’s something that many people saw highlighted with La’Darius Marshall in the popular Netflix original series “Cheer”.

Corrales, Newman, and Lipscomb all are men of color. Though they haven’t faced any obstacles directly regarding their race or sexual orientation at Butler, they still acknowledge the work that needs to be done in educating others that the cheer community is a diverse one.

Corrales, a heterosexual, confessed that he cheers on people when he tells them.

“I’ve heard [people say] before that cheer is a great sport for men who are homosexual because they feel like they have a place like where they strive and are comfortable,” Corrales said. “Yeah, I’m all for that. I also don’t think [cheer being a place just for gay men] is the entirety of co-ed cheer.”

Noah Lipscomb, first year, performs stunts with fellow teammates. Lauren Hough.

Lipscomb seconded that, saying that some people haven’t taken him seriously or have believed he’s just there to be around the women cheerleaders. 

“I’ve gotten a few of those slight comments,”Lipscomb stated. “I’m not coming here for any other reason but to hit these stunts … I’m not here, just to kick it with you and chill. We can have fun and stuff without letting that get in the way of the task at hand, which is: I’m here to cheer. I’m not here for anything else..”

Newman, a homosexual who identifies, also echoed the sentiments “I’m here to cheer”mindset and feels like the team has never made a big deal about his sexual orientation.

“I never feel like [my sexual orientation is] something that matters,”Newman said. “At the end of the day, it’s like, ‘Are you gonna get that girl up to the top of the stunt or nah?’ Like, there’s no sense of black, white, gay, it doesn’t matter. It’s about ‘Can you do your job?’”

Although cheerleaders for men have become more popular and praised, it is still a difficult task. task. Cole BonewitAssistant coach of the Butler cheer squad and the one who recruited Lipscomb to join the team, he exhausts all avenues to get guys to try out. 

These are just some of the methods he uses. He travels to speak at high schools and recruits students at his own school.

He was a cheerleader when he was at Ball State University. He understands the stereotypes that Lipscomb, Newman and Corrales are dealing with right now. He hopes that his work will make it easier for the next generation to cheerleaders for men.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,”Bonewit stated. “I think there’s a lot of stereotypes out there about cheerleaders and [male] cheerleaders, and it’s always been my goal to crush those. Ever since I got started cheering in college, I would get those stereotypes from people. And even as a teacher [at Lawrence Township], working with high school students, I think you hear a lot more of them. So I always am trying to crush those stereotypes and change the culture of cheerleading, change the culture for [men].”

Lipscomb advises that you should never pass up a chance to become a cheerleader.

“If you told me even four months from this day … that I would be in the position I am right now, I wouldn’t believe you,”Lipscomb stated. “So I just believe, and this is something that I’ve always lived by, [to] never close an open door. Always walk through it. Never turn down an opportunity to do something because you never know where it could take you.”

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