Washington Redskins cheerleaders felt 'pimped out' as they were forced to pose topless for team's male sponsors
Some of the cheerleaders complained about feeling 'pimped out' after a calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica 2013 saw them posing topless and that too in front of male spectators
The NFL cannot seem to shake off the negative press that has been hounding it almost constantly since the #MeToo movement took center stage this past year. The latest allegations are aimed at the owners of Washington Redskins, with former cheerleaders claiming that they felt 'pimped out' by team management and that they were forced to pose topless in front of team donors.
Five former cheerleaders for the team revealed to the New York Times that the incident took place during a week-long trip to Costa Rica in 2013 and that after they were forced to pose topless - despite no photograph on the calendar portraying nudity - the team sponsors, all of who were male, silently looked on. Furthermore, they said that their passports had been confiscated by Redskins' officials so they could not be identified.
The photo shoot incident was not the only depravity they had to endure, however. The Times reported that of the 36 cheerleaders who made the trip to the tropical Central American country, nine were then informed that they had to personally escort the male sponsors to a nightclub.
"They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go. We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing," one of the cheerleaders said, speaking about the incident.
And while there was no sex involved, the cheerleaders confessed they felt that the arrangement was akin to 'pimping us out,' adding that they were particularly disappointed with the team director's demands that they explicitly go as sex symbols to please these male sponsors. The fact that it seemed as though the management approved the whole thing compounded their misery further.
This incident is just one of many that have cropped up in recent months and put the NFL under intense scrutiny over how the teams seem to treat their cheerleaders as if they were second-class citizens.
Kristan Ann Ware, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, had also recently filed a complaint against her team with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. She alleged that she was discriminated against because of her Christian faith and gender and that she was mocked after she admitted she was waiting until marriage to have sex.
Unfortunately, the mood from the cheerleaders' side is one of despondency. They feel nothing will change unless something 'terrible' happens and in the words of one who spoke to the Times "teams will start paying attention to this only when it's too late."
Stephanie Jojokian, the longtime director and choreographer for the Redskins, disputed the accounts of the cheerleaders and denied that the women were forced to escort the sponsors to the nightclub: "I was not forcing anyone to go at all," she said. "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."
There were two other cheerleaders - both squad captains from 2013 - who corroborated Jojokian's statements and said that they had enjoyed themselves on the trip and that the director had not made them do anything they did not want to do.
Redskins president Bruce Allen addressed the controversial news in a statement which read: "Based on the dialogue we’ve had with a number of current and former cheerleaders over the past 48 hours, we’ve heard very different first-hand accounts that directly contradict many of the details of the May 2 article."
"I can promise that once we have completed looking into this matter if it is revealed that any of our employees acted inappropriately, those employees will face significant repercussions," the statement continued.
The Redskins also released a broader statement which praised its cheerleading program as one of the NFL's 'premier teams in participation, professionalism, and community service' and that its cheerleaders were 'contractually protected to ensure a safe and constructive environment.'
The NFL is in damage control mode, and a spokesperson for the league said that their office has 'no role in how the clubs which have cheerleaders utilize them.' In light of Ware's complaint, they had similarly released a statement where they said they would 'work with our clubs in sharing best practices and employment-related processes that will support club cheerleading squads within an appropriate and supportive workplace.'
The statement also said that "Everyone who works in the NFL, including cheerleaders, has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws."