The NFL season doesn't start until September, but Justine Lindsay is making history in the off-season as the league's first openly transgender cheerleader.
Lindsay, 29, announced that she had made the Carolina Panthers TopCats team earlier this year in an Instagram post.
"Cats Out the Bag you are looking at the newest member of the Carolina Panthers TopCats Cheerleader's @topcats as the first Transgender female," Lindsay wrote. "I would like to thank the beautiful and talented dancers who supported me along the way ... This is a moment I will never forget and I cannot wait to show you all what this girl has to bring. Thank you @topcats a dream come true."
Lindsay told BuzzFeed News that she was "so scared" to share the Instagram post in which she publicly came out.
"I just felt like when I posted it, whatever reaction I get from everyone, it does not matter," Lindsay told BuzzFeed. "And then my phone started blowing up."
Fans have sent messages of support to Lindsay on her Instagram posts, including telling her to block out any messages of hate or those questioning her spot on the squad.
TopCats director Chandalae Lanouette and the Panthers have both said Lindsay's skills are what secured her spot on the team.
"Members of the TopCats are hired based on their qualifications and abilities," the Panthers said in a statement to NPR. "Our organization is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate because of age, race, religion, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin. We wish all the TopCats, including Justine Lindsay, an incredible season."
Lindsay said she knows that her making the team as a Black trans woman is a big deal and is already speaking out against those who are trying to bring her down.
"Thank you to all my haters who think I'm bringing the organization down, clearly I don't," Lindsay said in an Instagram post on Monday. "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 @topcats made the squad fair and square."
Lindsay acknowledged that it isn't always easy, but that she is going to continue "paving the way for those under me who are scared and afraid to take that step."
"I will continue to inspire and help my African American beautiful trans sisters until my last breath."