Author: Emily Shugerman
Posted on: Independent | May 3rd ,2018
Fiver former cheerleaders for the Washington, DC team have claimed they were repeatedly made to feel uncomfortable during a week-long calendar shoot in Costa Rica in 2013 – for which they were paid nothing except travel and food reimbursements.
Secluded at an adults-only resort in Culebra Bay, the cheerleaders said they were forced to pose topless during the calendar shoot while team sponsors – all male – looked on. Later, some of them said they were informed they had been “chosen” to escort the men to a nightclub.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go,” one of the cheerleaders told the New York Times, adding that some of the women were “devastated” by the news.
Redskins officials on the trip, like Lon Rosenberg, the senior vice president for operations, and Dennis Greene, the president for business operations, appeared to “condone all of this,” one cheerleader said.
Redskins president Bruce Allen said in a statement that the team was looking into the situation, and treating the allegations seriously.
«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,» Mr Allen said. «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.»
Stephanie Jojokian, the squad’s director and choreographer, disputed parts of the cheerleaders’ accounts, saying the nightclub trip was not mandatory and the women were not hand-picked by the sponsors to attend.
“I was not forcing anyone to go at all,” Ms Jojokian told the Times. “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.”
The team also provided two other cheerleaders for interviews, who both said they had been on the trip and had enjoyed themselves. The cheerleaders – both squad captains from 2013 – said they never had problems with Ms Jojokian forcing them to do anything they didn’t want to do.
Two other cheerleaders, however, told NBC’s Today Show that they had also been on the trip, and that all of allegations in the Times report were true.
Other cheerleaders described a second, 2012 incident in which they were taken on a yacht owned by a Redskins suite holder and prominent local businessman. The women said they were met onboard by several unfamiliar men, who poured alcohol down their throats with turkey basters and handed out cash for twerking contests, at what was characterised as a “team bonding” event.
William Teel, the owner of the yacht, denied that anything inappropriate had happened, noting that he had five sisters and had paid for the event himself.
“The people who wanted to get off, got off. The people that wanted to stay, stayed,” he said of the event. “I don’t believe that anyone was pressured by their management to attend events or to be nice to sponsors.”
In a statement to several news outlets, the Redskins claimed their cheerleading programme was “one of the NFL’s premier teams in participation, professionalism, and community service”.
“Each Redskin cheerleader is contractually protected to ensure a safe and constructive environment,” the team said.
The report came as two cheerleaders from different NFL teams filed suit against their former teams, alleging gender discrimination.
Former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed a discrimination suit against her former team, claiming she was fired after posting a suggestive Instagram photo. Kristan Ware is suing the Miami Dolphins for allegedly discriminating against her based on her virginity and religious beliefs.
A spokesman for the NFL said the league office “has no role in how the clubs which have cheerleaders utilise them”