Two gay men made the cut and have joined the New England Patriots cheerleading squad, the team announced. Steven Sonntag and Driss Dallahi, the first men on the previously all-female squad in decades, are among 14 rookies selected to pump-up the Gillette Stadium crowd this fall.
Technically speaking, the Patriots have had men on the sidelines before, to motivate fans. But they were dancers and it was the late 1970s.
By the 1980s, “The men’s role transitioned to more stunting/tumbling/cheerleading” by women, said Patriots cheerleader director Tracy Sormanti, in a statement announcing Sonntag and Dallahi. “They were not selected because they were the first men to try out,” she added. “They were selected because they actually had the talent.”
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Two men have made the New England Patriots — cheerleading squad, that is. Steven Sonntag and Driss Dallahi were among 14 rookies who tried out and made the final cut for this year’s Patriots cheer squad, according to an announcement posted on the team’s website. The Patriots haven’t had male cheerleaders in decades, Patriots cheerleader director Tracy Sormanti said. “The Patriots had male dancers on the squad in the late 1970’s,” she said in an e-mail. “The men’s role transitioned to more stunting/tumbling/cheerleading in the early 80’s.” Welcome to the team Steven and and Driss! #Patriots #Patsnation @stevennsonntag @drissj.dallahi
Both Dallahi and Sonntag reached out to Jinnies and Peron via social media, WBTS reported, to ask for advice. The Rams cheerleaders warned them they might hear negative comments from fans in the stands or read them online.
Speaking of which, one fan wrote on the Patriots’ site, “Some traditions are better left alone imho.” Another added this comment to the Patriots Nation Instagram post: “We need receivers and this is what we fucking get.”
”If there are people that aren’t 100 percent on board today,” said Dallahi, “then maybe somewhere down the line, they are, once we actually get out there.”
Sonntag, 22, said he and Dallahi met at a cheerleading boot camp in March, as the only men to audition.
“I attended that workshop and walked in and heard there was another boy, and so I was immediately looking around trying to find him,” said Sontag. “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.” They even went so far as to coordinate what they wore, to complement each other.
Both men made it the final round of try-outs on March 17 at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, and were selected along with 12 women rookies and 20 veteran cheerleaders. They will represent the Patriots as ambassadors to the New England community, as well as cheer on the sidelines beginning in the preseason.
Dallahi posted a video of his stellar practice routine to social media before the February preliminaries, which he captioned, “Summoning the spirit of Beyoncé in my time of need.”
Dallahi, 23, describes himself on Instagram as a prancer and aerialist and his posts showcase the amazing abilities that won over those who selected the Londonderry, N.H. resident as a cheerleader.
“Walking [into tryouts] I knew people were going to look at me,” Dallahi said. “One, because I am over 6 feet tall, and two, because I am a male.” Here’s video of his audition.
Sonntag studied dance at Dean College, where he created the school’s cheer team, and is a member of the Class of 2019. Of this milestone, the Colchester, Vt. native told WBTS: “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.”
Sonntag proudly posted a selfie to Instagram on his first day of work.
Check out Sonntag’s moves in this video he shared from September 2018.
Watch how WBTS-TV reported their big achievement below or by clicking here.