Cheerleaders ‘forced to pose topless’ while sponsors were given a close-up look, says report
Five former cheerleaders with the Washington Redskins told New York Times that some were also forced to act as escorts
Former members of the Washington Redskins cheerleaders squad – which performed in Hong Kong in 2009 as part of Lunar New Year celebrations – say they were forced to appear topless at an exclusive photoshoot in 2013, in which male representatives of key sponsors were able to get a close-up look.
The New York Times reported the story and the Redskins are now under fire with the ex-cheerleaders saying they were used for the benefit of sponsors and high-profile ticket holders, having also been forced to act as escorts.
According to the report, the cheerleaders completed a 14-hour day of poses and dance practices at the adult-only Occidental Grand Papagayo resort on Culebra Bay in Costa Rica.
Some were forced to pose topless and others wore just body paint but they were being watched by Redskins sponsors and some owners of corporate suites at Redskins’ stadium.
Afterwards, says the report, nine of them were selected for a “special assignment”. The report said male sponsors had picked them to be personal escorts at a nightclub.
“So get back to your room and get ready,” cheerleaders director Stephanie Jojokian reportedly told the women, some of whom started crying.
One of the cheerleaders was quoted saying: “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.”
The report said that sex was not involved.
The Times said it interviewed five cheerleaders who were involved in the photoshoot for its report, adding that many of the details were supported by others who were told of the trip. It said the cheerleaders spoke on condition of anonymity because they were required to sign confidentiality agreements when they joined the team.
The report also said that two Redskins officials, senior vice president for operations Lon Rosenberg and president of business operations Dennis Greene, were present at the photoshoot.
Jojokian denied forcing any Redskins cheerleaders to attend the nightclub and contested the description the five cheerleaders provided.
A Redskins spokesman reportedly said the team would decline to comment.
The report comes as the NFL’s practices toward cheerleaders have come under scrutiny. Two former cheerleaders – one with the New Orleans Saints, and one with the Miami Dolphins – have recently filed discrimination claims against their former teams, one on the grounds of gender discrimination, the other on gender and religious grounds.
Sara Blackwell, the Florida lawyer representing the two cheerleaders who filed discrimination cases, was quoted by the Washington Post as saying: “It made my stomach sick. I think [commissioner] Roger Goodell has the power to change this and every single one of the teams, but he is choosing to not do it.”
Blackwell wants to meet with Goodell to discuss cheerleader welfare and has said Bailey Davis, the former Saints cheerleader, will drop her case for US$1 if the NFL agrees to a meeting.
“The NFL statement is constantly that the cheerleaders deserve a professional environment free of discrimination and sexual harassment,” Blackwell said. “Apparently, they mean they deserve it – the NFL just has no intention to actually provide it. That’s very clear by the lack of response thus far from Goodell to the media, the cheerleaders or to our settlement demand.”
The NFL did not return a request for comment on Thursday.