Two male cheerleaders have signed up to the cheerleading squad for the New England Patriots.
The Super Bowl champions announced that Driss Dallahi and Steven Sonntag had joined as cheerleaders on March 30, ahead of the 2019 NFL season.
The pair explained that they were inspired to pursue their dreams after seeing Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders Napoleon Jinnies and Quinton Peron perform.
Jinnies and Peron became the first male cheerleaders to perform at the Super Bowl in February.
Driss Dallahi and Steven Sonntag inspired by Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders
Speaking to NBC, Dallahi said: “At least in my lifetime, it was the first time I had seen two men do something like that.”
Other NFL teams, including the New Orleans Saints, also have male cheerleaders.
However, Dallahi and Sonntag will be the first to cheer for the Patriots in decades.
Dallahi said: “Walking [into tryouts] I knew people were going to look at me — one, because I am over 6 feet tall, and two, because I am a male.”
The two dancers met for the first time at auditions in March, and were the only men to try out.
New England Patriots ‘excited’ about new cheerleaders
Sonntag explained: “I attended that workshop and walked in and heard there was another boy, and so I was immediately looking around trying to find him.
“We didn’t really know the criteria for male cheerleaders auditioning for the New England Patriots, so we kind of created that together in texting back and forth.”
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He added: “Two genders on the squad is a big step for any team in the NFL, because that’s not what people are used to seeing sidelines, so I encourage it to progress even more across the NFL board.”
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Patriots cheerleading director Tracy Sormanti said she was “excited” by the two talented new dancers, adding: “Change is good.”
She added: “They were not selected because they were the first men to try out.
“They were selected because they actually had the talent.”
Napoleon Jinnies recently spoke about the homophobic bullying he endured for being a gay dancer.
In an interview with Refinery29, Jinnies said: “I was always the only boy on the dance team in junior high and high school, and during those years, I was bullied for being gay.”
Jinnies added: “We have gotten messages from young boys who are telling me that they’re going to go for their dance team auditions and be cheerleaders now.
“I have older men who are saying that they were cheerleaders and that they’re excited to be living through us.
“There are men now going for cheerleading positions on other NFL teams across the country. It’s more than just me and Quinton, and we know that.
“Gender should never be the issue: If you have the skill, the nerve, and the drive to do it, you should be allowed to.”