the squad

These 10 male pro-sports cheerleaders have us shouting “Gooooo team!”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Patrick Opran┋ (@pat__planet)

Patrick Opran haș made history by becoming the first male dancer to join the Celtics Dancers, the dance team for Philly’s NBA team the Boston Celtics.

Opran dropped his dreams of becoming a lawyer to commit to dancing, and though he feared anti-gay sentiment on the team, he’s been encouraged to really lean into his flamboyance during his performances, he recently told Outsports.

While Opran isn’t a cheerleader per se, he still hypes up the crowd like one. The path to his career was also partially paved by the earliest male cheerleaders to enter another pro-sports league: the NFL. Both the NFL and NBA began diversifying their cheer squads around 2018, something which coincided with the #MeToo movement.

Regardless, here are several cheerleaders who made history by performing in a traditionally female field.

James LeGette

Before becoming a cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles, LeGette worked as a 5th grade teacher, taught gymnastics and dance, and volunteered for six years with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

“The real world can be tough and the easiest way to get through it is by following your dreams and pursuing things you want to do as you continue to master your craft,” he said. “Now, I also have the opportunity to break boundaries, show the world that you can be anything you want to be and be a role model.”

Jesse Hernandez


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jesse Hernandez (@_jessehernandez93_)

In 2018, Hernandez made history by being the first guy to perform as part of the New Orleans Saints’ Saintsations dance squad.

Though the squad is now known as the Saints Cheer Krewe (a nod to the krewes in the city’s Mardi Gras parades), Hernandez was actually just the first of two male dancers on the squad. The other was Dylon Hoffpauir, who has since become the head dance and cheer coach at Loyola University in New Orleans.

 Quinton Peron and Napolean Jinnies


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Quinton Peron (@itsaquintonthing)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Napoleon Jinnies (@napoleonjinnies)

Peron and Jinnies were the first men ever to perform on a pro-football cheer squad when they became L.A. Rams cheerleaders in 2018.

“I want to prove that boys can dance, too,” Peron said shortly after joining the squad in 2018. “I am an artist, I am a creative person… and we can do it, we can hang with the girls!”

Jinnies remains a member of the cheerleading squad while Peron retired from the team last April.

Driss Dallahi and Steven Sonntag


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Steven Sonntag (@stevennsonntag)

Dallahi and Sonntag were both in their early twenties when they auditioned for the New England Patriots’ squad. They both said they were inspired to audition after seeing Quinton Peron and Napolean Jinnies perform as the NFL’s first male cheerleaders in the 2019 Super Bowl.

Sontagg told NBC Boston, “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… 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.”

Anthony Niccolo, Grayson Tummings, Jessie Castillo, and Randolph Rivera Marte


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Anthony Nicolo (@anthonynicolo)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by (@jessiejcastillo)

While some NFL teams hire one or two male dancers for their cheer squads, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently have four.

Some of the men have other jobs: Tummings works in marketing and Marte has worked in customer care. However, cheerleaders don’t just perform on-field. They also commit to long rehearsals with their squad and are often asked to serve as public team ambassadors, greeting fans and raising spirits at community events.