Cheerleaders reportedly accuse Redskins of 'pimping us out,' giving access to topless shoot

As former NFL cheerleaders continue to speak out about mistreatment and misconduct amid ongoing discrimination claims against the league, a troubling account about a trip the Redskins' cheerleaders took to Costa Rica in 2013 emerged on Wednesday.

Speaking with The New York Times, five cheerleaders, all of whom weren't named due to confidentiality agreements with the team, accused the Redskins of "pimping us out" by using them as personal escorts for male sponsors after the men were invited to watch a topless and body paint photoshoot. According to the report, the details shared by the five cheerleaders were supported by others who heard about what happened at the time.

Writing for The New York Times, Juliet Macur reports:

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.

"At one of my friend's shoots, we were basically standing around her like a human barricade because she was basically naked, so we could keep the guys from seeing her," one of the cheerleaders said. "I was getting so angry that the guys on the trip were skeezing around in the background."

The cheerleaders said that one evening, their director told nine of the 36 cheerleaders that they were to serve as personal escorts for some of the male sponsors, who were going to a nightclub. The cheerleaders said that the task didn't involve sex, but they felt as if the team was "pimping us out." 

Several women on the cheerleading team decided not to return the following season.

"They weren't putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go," one of the cheerleaders told the newspaper. "We weren't asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing."

"It's just not right to send cheerleaders out with strange men when some of the girls clearly don't want to go," one cheerleader who was there said. "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."

Meanwhile, the Redskins -- both the team and cheerleader director, Stephanie Jojokian -- denied the account to The New York Times.

"I was not forcing anyone to go at all," Jojokian told the newspaper. "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 Redskins' cheerleader program is one of the NFL's premier teams in participation, professionalism, and community service," the team said in a statement. "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 entire story, which goes into greater detail about the culture of the Redskins' cheerleading program, is worth a read. You can find it here

The details from the report might be disturbing, but it's hardly the first time disturbing details have emerged regarding the work environment for NFL cheerleaders. In 2014, the Raiders' cheerleaders reached a settlement in their unfair employment practices lawsuit against the team. Bengals and Bills cheerleaders have also sued their teams for issues relating to fair pay and expectations for hygiene and grooming habits.

More recently, a former Dolphins cheerleader, Kristan Ann Ware, accused the team of discrimination due to her gender and religion. As The Washington Post reported, Ware alleges that the team director, Dorie Grogan, told her she wasn't allowed to talk about her virginity around the team and told her that she needed to become a woman. Ware also accused Grogan of telling her to "make love to the camera" during a bikini photoshoot.

Bailey Davis, a former cheerleader of the Saints, accused the team of having two different sets of rules for their employees -- one for women and another for men. Our Jared Dubin explains:

Per the New York Times, Davis posted a photograph to her private Instagram account wearing a one-piece swimsuit, after which Saints officials accused her, over her protests, of breaking rules that prohibit cheerleaders from appearing nude, seminude or in lingerie. The Saints additionally accused Davis of attending a party with Saints players, another regulation she denies violating. Davis also informed Saints officials that she was contacted by players on social media, after which the cheerleaders were told to block players from following them on social media, and to switch their social media settings from public to private. (By contrast, Saints players are not required to block cheerleaders from their accounts or make their settings private.) 

Both Davis and Ware have said that they'll settle their discrimination claims for $1 each and a four-hour meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell, during which they'll "prepare a set of binding rules and regulations which apply to all NFL teams," per The New York Times. They requested a response to their proposal by May 4.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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