Silver lining, I guess: The name “Redskins” is no longer the team’s biggest political problem.
There was no actual sex in this “pimping out,” the Times’s sources say, just some of the traditional pre-coitus arrangements for an escort service. A group of attractive women all in the firm’s employ are told that a group of wealthy men wants to mingle with them privately, and saying no doesn’t seem to be much of an option. Allegedly, when you sign up to cheer for the ‘Skins you’re also unwittingly signing up to be “companions” for rich fans in foreign countries after they’ve watched you model topless. Oh, and after team management has seized your passport so that you have little choice but to comply.
My takeaway: Somehow, some way, this is going to lead to Dan Snyder being given a cabinet position.
For the [team calendar] 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.
The Redskins’ cheerleading director denies vehemently that attending the nightclub meet-and-greet was mandatory, but per the Times’s sources, she “seemed especially focused on preserving relationships with businessmen who supported the team and her nonprofit dance company, Capitol Movement.” To illustrate the point, there’s a bit in the story about a party held on a yacht in 2012; supposedly the director had advertised it as a mandatory team-bonding event, but when the cheerleaders showed up they found men aboard, one of whom was a Redskins suite owner. Much merriment reportedly ensued: “[M]en shot liquor into the cheerleaders’ mouths with turkey basters” and cash prizes were handed out for, ah, twerking. Evidently it was an annual thing.
None of the Times’s sources claim that they were forced to do anything, but one said that she was told a few years later before the upcoming yacht party that “you could make a lot of money there if you wanted” and that she felt “too scared to complain” lest it create problems for her on the squad. How can you say no to a “team-bonding” event? Redskins players sacrifice their bodies and minds for the good of the team; letting some fat rich guy who pays big bucks for a luxury box squirt liquor into your mouth is the least a cheerleader can do.
A little more about the meat market/photo shoot in Costa Rica:
“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 nine cheerleaders picked to escort the sponsors to a nightclub boarded a hotel van without any Redskins management. When they showed up at the club, it was dark and nearly empty, several of them said. But the men who had requested them were there.
The cheerleaders said they were further bothered by the fact that Redskins officials were there, too. Ms. Jojokian [the cheerleading director] was not, but Lon Rosenberg, the senior vice president for operations, and Dennis Greene, the president for business operations, were. A former Redskins cheerleader who volunteered as a sideline assistant during games was encouraging the women to drink and flirt, the cheerleaders said.
Nothing weird or anxious about being told to go meet powerful dudes at a nearly empty club in a strange country without ID with your boss’s boss’s boss hanging around to make sure all goes well. (“The issue was that management seemed to condone all of this,” said one cheerleader to the NYT.) Allegedly they were stopped by Costa Rican police at the end of the night on the way back to their van, presumably on suspicion that they were hookers. For their participation in the trip and for going the extra mile in humoring rich football fans at a nightclub, the women were paid … zippo.
Show of hands: Who thinks the Redskins are the only franchise to have pulled something like this on their cheerleaders?
A likely and ironic outcome from this will be some teams choosing to disband their cheerleading squads instead of cutting out the extracurricular nonsense like nudging them to twerk for some hedge-fund geriatric who just got his Viagra refill. None of the Times’s sources seemed to dislike their job-job, though. They even understood and accepted that the squad’s sex appeal will be used to market it. Business is business. What they didn’t like is the non-job part of the job, particularly feeling ambushed into private performances for strange men whom they didn’t feel they could say no to. But critics will turn up the heat on the idea that cheerleading squads are anachronistic and will inevitably lead to abuses like this one and therefore must be cashiered, especially once the follow-up pieces chronicling abuses on other teams start coming now. And they will start coming. The Times ran a related piece about cheerleaders in the #MeToo age just three weeks ago. They’re digging in.
Exit question: Between this and growing awareness of CTE, what will our beloved NFL look like once the women can’t be quasi-trafficked and the men are no longer allowed to play with crippling neurological disorders?