Cheerleading is a sport where its participants routinely defy gravity, and yet, thanks to Netflix’s new docuseries Cheer, how they do so is no longer its biggest mystery. Instead, it’s a certain acronym that is puzzling the internet: What does FIOFMU mean?!
Cheer follows the lives of cheerleaders at Navarro Community College in Texas. The 14-time NCA National Championship-winning team is coached by Monica Aldama and boasts serious athletes, including the insta-famous cheerleader Gabi Butler. Many of the show’s stars credit cheerleading with saving their lives, allowing them to be their true selves, and giving them purpose — like Jade Withrow, who said she would probably be “in jail” without the sport.
Given how sacred cheerleading is to the Navarro team, it’s not surprising that they also have a super special, and apparently pretty secret phrase that binds them together.
In Cheer, you’ll notice that the Navarro cheerleaders often cheer “FIOFMU,” but at no point in the series is the acronym ever explained. It’s written on tee-shirts, in the captions of Instagram posts, and even painted one the cheerleaders’ bodies. Now, the phrase has moved from cheerleader Twitter to regular Twitter...because fans of Cheer have zero clue as to what it could mean.
Kayla Culver, who wears a Navarro cheerleading uniform in her Twitter profile photo and has the acronym FIOFMU in her bio, hinted that it’s shrouded in secret on purpose.
“#FIOFMU is a coded message/motto, that you learn and earn throughout the year while on the team. Learning the meaning is entirely special and is only known by Navarro Cheerleaders and Navarro Cheer alumni,” she wrote.
A since-deleted post on Urban Dictionary, per Women’s Health, claimed that the term means “fight it out, fuck ‘em up,” which would make sense considering that sounds like something one might cheer to encourage a team from the sidelines. Of the few people on Twitter taking a crack at what the words behind the acronym were, this theory was the most popular. A cheer fan account even posted this speculative definition to Twitter in 2018.
It appears that the first rule of Navarro cheerleading is, you don't talk about the meaning of FIOFMU. According to a post on Reddit, the meaning of the acronym is kept so hush-hush that the only way to really learn it is to make the team. One Redditor implied that it’s not just Navarro who has secret acronyms, but cheerleading teams all over.
“Those abbreviations for cheerleaders are sacred. Only team members know what it stands for. At least that’s how it works for most teams,” they wrote.
The website LowerLevelCheer has alleged definitions for other team's abbreviations, which, like FIOFMU, are also all over their respective cheerleader's social media accounts as swag.
Sarah Sweet, a Navarro cheerleader, allegedly wrote on AskFM that those who do make the team don’t even learn the meaning behind FIOFMU until “the very very end of [their] year.”
Theorize all you want about FIOFMU, but the only way to really know what it means is to score a spot on this team, and be good enough to stay on it. For the less athletically inclined amongst us, we'll just have to deal with not knowing the truth.