Unnamed Washington Redskins cheerleaders have come forward to reveal they were required to be topless during a calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica in 2013, a report published by the New York Times on Wednesday details.
The Redskins had invited spectators — sponsors and FedExField suite holders, all of which were men — to the photo shoot, according to the report. Also during the trip, nine of the 36 cheerleaders were reportedly required to accompany male sponsors as personal escorts at a nightclub. They were taken to the club in a van without any Redskins management, according to the report, but several Redskins officials were said to be at the club.
“It’s just not right to send cheerleaders out with strange men when some of the girls clearly don’t want to go,” one of the women told the Times. “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.”
Several of the cheerleaders began to cry upon being told to get ready, according to the Times. The cheerleaders said no sex was involved, but felt the arrangement amounted to “pimping us out.”
“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.”
The report states the commands came from Stephanie Jojokian, the longtime director and choreographer for the Redskins’ cheerleaders, who denied that the nightclub request was mandatory or that the girls who had to go were specifically chosen.
“I was not forcing anyone to go at all,” 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.”
According to the report, the cheerleaders had their passports taken from them upon arrival to Costa Rica. They were paid nothing beyond transportation costs, meals and lodging for the trip, the team said.
Also described in the Times report is an annual, mandatory boat outing with sponsors, with the 2012 event characterized as “a wild gathering, where men shot liquor into the cheerleaders’ mouths with turkey basters.” Twerking contests held for money were also said to have taken place at the event.
The Redskins made two cheerleaders who were captains of the squad in 2013 available to the Times for interview, and each praised Jojokian. One described the Costa Rica nightclub evening as “a night of relaxation and to be away from it all.”
The Redskins also gave a statement to the Times, and a spokesman from the NFL said the league office “has no role in how the clubs which have cheerleaders utilize them.”
“The Redskins’ cheerleader program is one of the NFL’s premier teams in participation, professionalism, and community service,” the team said. “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.”
The story is the latest to feature cheerleaders speaking out against the NFL. Two women, one a former New Orleans Saints cheerleader and the other a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, filed discrimination complaints against the league last month.
–Field Level Media