From time to time over the past few years, stories have emerged regarding overworked, underpaid NFL cheerleading squads. From time to time, stories regarding lawsuits arising from cheerleaders who aren’t properly compensated for their total time spent working have included odd and/or disturbing accounts of the things that the managers of the squad will say to the cheerleaders about how to dress, and more.
The latest tale of a team allegedly taking advantage of a cheerleading squad comes from the New York Times, and it centers on a Costa Rican excursion featuring the Washington cheerleaders.
It happened in 2013, and it begins with the cheerleaders having their passports confiscated once they arrived. It continues with a photo shoot that included topless photos and body paint. Although the photos contained no nudity, male sponsors and FedEx Field suite holders had access to the project as it was happening.
It gets better, or as the case may be worse. Per the report, the director of the squad allegedly told nine of the cheerleaders that they would be serving as personal escorts for some of the male sponsors who had made the trip.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go,” one of the cheerleaders told the Times. “We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing.”
While no sexual favors were involved, some of the cheerleaders believed that the squad was “pimping us out.” The team denies the allegations.
“The Redskins’ cheerleader program is one of the NFL’s premier teams in participation, professionalism, and community service,” the organization said in a statement to the Times. “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.”
“I was not forcing anyone to go at all,” Stephanie Jojokian, the squad’s director and choreographer, said regarding the night club visit. “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.”
Regardless, the allegations have been made by unnamed members of the 36-cheerleader squad. The question now becomes whether the team or the league will look into the situation, and whether anyone will be held accountable for any lines that were crossed.
If lines were crossed, the organization may have some tough questions to answer. As explained by the Times, senior V.P. of operations Lon Rosenberg and president of business operations Dennis Greene attended the visit to the night club that featured nine of the cheerleaders serving as escorts for sponsors.
“The issue was that management seemed to condone all of this,” one of the cheerleaders at the event told the Times.
Whether the league will condone all of this or aggressively investigate it (in the same way the NFL would and does investigate players) remains to be seen.