The Washington Redskins have come under intense media and public scrutiny after a The New York Times report alleging grossly inappropriate treatment of the team’s cheerleaders came to light.
One major incident described in detail involved the team cheerleaders’ 2013 calendar photo shoot.
Cheerleaders were allegedly taken to a secluded, adults-only resort in Costa Rica for the shoot. Suspicions were immediately raised when all of their passports, their only form of official identification, were collected by the team after they landed in Costa Rica.
During the actual photo shoot, some of the women were informed they would have to take their photos topless or in nothing but body paint. No nude photos were included with the calendar.
The women were reportedly fine with most of the circumstances of the photo shoot, given its secluded nature.
One thing the women were not OK with? The all-male spectators, made up of sponsors and FedEx Field suit holders, who were invited to watch the photo shoot. The spectators were apparently granted “up-close access” to the intimate photo shoots.
Another damning incident reportedly occurred at the end of a marathon 14-hour day that included photo shoots and dance practice.
After the long day, the dance squad’s director told nine of her cheerleaders that they weren’t done yet and had actually been hand-picked by prominent male sponsors to accompany them as escorts to a night club.
“So get back to your room and get ready,” the director allegedly barked at them. This brought several of the girls to tears.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go,” an anonymous cheerleader told The Times. “We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing.”
The cheerleaders did point out that sex was never involved, although they still felt strongly that the Redskins were “pimping us out.”
One of the biggest sticking points for the cheerleaders was that they felt being a sex symbol to appease male sponsors should not be part of their jobs.
A cheerleader who was present during the incidents said she’s worried that something bad has to actually happen first before anyone will do anything about it.
“It’s just not right to send cheerleaders out with strange men when some of the girls clearly don’t want to go,” the cheerleader said. “But unfortunately, I feel like it won’t change until something terrible happens, like a girl is assaulted in some way, or raped. I think teams will start paying attention to this only when it’s too late.”
Unsurprisingly, the Redskins have vociferously denied these allegations.
“The Redskins’ cheerleader program is one of the NFL’s premier teams in participation, professionalism and community service,” the team said in a statement. “Each Redskin cheerleader is contractually protected to ensure a safe and constructive environment. The work our cheerleaders do in our community, visiting our troops abroad and supporting our team on the field is something the Redskins organization and our fans take great pride in.”
“I was not forcing anyone to go at all,” said Stephanie Jojokian, the director and choreographer of the Redskins’ cheerleaders. “I’m the mama bear, and I really look out for everybody, not just the cheerleaders. It’s a big family. We respect each other and our craft. It’s such a supportive environment for these ladies.”
This couldn’t come at a worse time for the NFL, which is already dealing with more and more cheerleaders coming forth about dubious working conditions. That’s to say nothing of the two collusion grievances, declining ratings, poor public perception and sniping from President Donald Trump the league is already dealing with.
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