The Washington Redskins are facing allegations stemming from a New York Times report that some of their cheerleaders were required to attend a night out with team sponsors.
The Redskins organization strongly denies the report that it required any cheerleaders to go to after-hours events with male sponsors. However, some of the cheerleaders voluntarily attended, according to the team.
Stephanie Jojokian, head of choreography for the Redskins, is saddened by the allegations.
“It breaks my heart because I’m a mom and I’ve done this for a long time. Where is this coming from? I would never put a woman in a situation like that. I actually mentor these women to be strong and to speak up, and it kills me to hear that,” Jojokian said.
“I was not forcing anyone to go at all. 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,” Jojokian said.
The New York Times piece centers on a 2013 Costa Rica trip that reportedly made some of the cheerleaders feel uncomfortable. Here is the account of one of the women involved, from the Times:
For the photo shoot, at the adults-only Occidental Grand Papagayo resort on Culebra Bay, some of the cheerleaders said they were required to be topless, though the photographs used for the calendar would not show nudity. Others wore nothing but body paint. Given the resort’s secluded setting, such revealing poses would not have been a concern for the women — except that the Redskins had invited spectators.
A contingent of sponsors and FedExField suite holders — all men — were granted up-close access to the photo shoots.
One evening, at the end of a 14-hour day that included posing and dance practices, the squad’s director told nine of the 36 cheerleaders that their work was not done. They had a special assignment for the night. Some of the male sponsors had picked them to be personal escorts at a nightclub.
“So get back to your room and get ready,” the director told them. Several of them began to cry.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go,” one of the cheerleaders said. “We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing.”
Their participation did not involve sex, the cheerleaders said, but they felt as if the arrangement amounted to “pimping us out.” What bothered them was their team director’s demand that they go as sex symbols to please male sponsors, which they did not believe should be a part of their job.”
New York Times passage ends