“I Had Never Even Heard Of Blackface…” | Cheerleading Star Gabi Butler Caught In Blackface

Image Credit: Stefanie Keenan / Getty

A picture of star cheerleader Gabi Butler in blackface was posted online, shocking many of her fans. The Navarro College cheerleader took to Twitter and released an official statement to explain herself and why she agreed to don the offensive makeup.

“I have been made aware an anonymous cheer Twitter account posted a picture of me with the intent to untruthfully slander my character. This statement is meant to set the record straight,” Butler wrote.

“In 2018, I was in my first year at Navarro College just prior to leaving for Daytona. All members of my rookie class were told by our veteran teammates we had to come to an initiation at CTA (the Allstar location off campus where we practiced). The veterans made us dress in all black and paint our faces; certain members wore ski masks as they did not have face paint. My rookie teammates, including a few who also happened to be people of color, were asked to do this, and we complied with the request as we did not want to get in trouble with said veterans.”

When “Cheer” Goes Wrong

Butler starred in the hit Netflix show “Cheer,” which was beleaguered with scandal. Back in July, former “Cheer” star Jerry Harris was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison in a child sex abuse case he was charged with in 2020. Butler’s blackface photo is now the latest blemish on the “Cheer” brand.

Butler added videos of her cheerleader peers that are of color and attempted to absolve her involvement by showing their participation. One teammate, Ladarius Marshall, disputed Butler’s recollection and lamented the decision to share images of a Black teammate in blackface.

“No, what we won’t do is throw the ‘other people of color’ under the bus,” Butler’s “Cheer” co-star Ladarius Marshall posted. “The rest of the minorities spoke out against this, I personally talked to you and said that it was not a good idea. So no, we didn’t all feel the same. I forgave you for it but don’t sit on here and lie.”

Not People Of Color…

Marshall also said that coaches for the team, Navarro’s school board, the president, and the police were informed of the infraction, but nothing happened. Butler continued her lengthy statement in an attempt to validate her actions and explain her perspective.

“The picture circulating social media was taken in the parking lot of CTA prior to the initiation,” Butler continued. “Accompanying this statement is proof of the veteran’s request as well as pictures and video of some of my other rookie teammates who followed the same instructions. I hope these teammates will stand behind me and verify this to an accurate account of what happened that day. I am sorry I need to pull my other teammates into this, but I have no choice but to speak the truth about this situation since the lie has been spread across social media.

“I am not racist and would never do something to make fun of anyone nor be hurtful to any person of color. I have a deep love for all of my friends and family, regardless of their skin color, and I believe in my soul that we are all amazing souls created by God to love one another. If anyone was harmed by this false attempt to frame me as something I am not, I am truly sorry. However, I will not allow this narrative to continue and paint me in a false light – it is trying to make it look as though I was doing something harmful and hateful.”

The world of cheerleading reveals a sordid world when the layers of positive athleticism are peeled back, and now Gabi Butler has added to the negativity surrounding the sport.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.