The culture of cheerleading and what the job entailed past twirling pom poms, executing funky dance moves and hyping NFL fans on Sundays, is one that most people didn’t know anything about until the past few seasons when reports of cheerleaders charging NFL teams with discrimination, sexism and filing lawsuits for pay inequity hit the social media mill.
The latest group of cheerleaders to expose this underground exploitative culture worked for the Washington Redskins dating back to the mid 2000s where, supposedly, Redskins owner Dan Snyder encouraged an environment that required cheerleaders to attend remote events where they would appear nude or in body paint as sexual objects and encouraged to flirt, drink and be escorts for men who were friends of the Redskins family.
EXCLUSIVE: Redskins cheerleaders say they were required to go to a Costa Rica nightclub with male sponsors, who earlier watched a topless photo shoot. “We weren’t asked, we were told.” https://t.co/COG2WZiYrs
Mr. Snyder was bringing the craft closer to pole dancing with every season, said a 2009 column in The Washington City Paper, which referred to a risque cheerleaders advertisement on the owners WTEM-AM sports talk radio station that year
The women say their participation did not involve sex, but they felt as if the arrangement amounted to pimping us out. What bothered them was their team directors demand that they go as sex symbols to please male sponsors, which they did not believe should be a part of their job.
According to nytimes.com, “During one particular incident in Costa Rica in 2013, a contingent of sponsors and FedEx Field 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.
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.
According to the NY Times report, which includes corroborated stories from five of the cheerleaders, the women were paid nothing beyond transportation costs, meals and lodging, which gives us insight into how N.F.L. teams have used cheerleaders for activities not included in the original job description.
Their treatment has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks since two former N.F.L. cheerleaders filed discrimination complaints and described a hostile work environment in which they were often dangled as sex objects for the titillation of male fans away from the games.
Back in March we reported on former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis, who has filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being fired from the team, according to a report from the New York Times.
The basis of Davis complaint is that while employed as NFL personnel, she was forced to follow rules that applied only to women. Saints players had no onus to follow strict fraternization rules with the teams dancers.
Sara Blackwell, a lawyer representing former NFL cheerleader Bailey Davis, who filed a recent discrimination lawsuit against the league, said she will settle all claims for $1 in exchange for a four-hour meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell. https://t.co/8M3yztScG7 https://t.co/FZcxmgJcwx
The exploitation of women in the workplace is nothing new and the dark side of NFL cheerleading is something that is just now getting the attention it deserves. Though glamorous on the surface, the culture of the job is driven by rich men who objectify women, aren’t honest with them and use one of their own to reel them in and control them almost psychologically forcing them to agree to something they are against.
In this case, Stephanie Jojokian, the longtime director and choreographer for the Redskins cheerleaders was the bridge between the cheerleaders and the sexually-demeaning moonlight work they were told to do. Jojokian, a former squad director and choreographer for the N.B.A.s Washington Wizards, organized a mandatory team-bonding private yacht trip back in 2012 where it is reported that the men shot liquor into the cheerleaders’ mouths with turkey basters and let it rain with cash during twerking contests.
The issue was that management seemed to condone all of this, one cheerleader who was in Costa Rica said.
Jojokian disputes much of the women’s description of the Costa Rica trip. She vehemently denied that the night at the club was mandatory and said that the cheerleaders who went were not chosen by sponsors.
I was not forcing anyone to go at all, Ms. Jojokian said.
The Redskins have taken a dismissive and unsympathetic position in the matter and released the following statement:
The Redskins cheerleader program is one of the NFLs premier teams in participation, professionalism, and community service. 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 NFL isn’t acknowledging the cheerleader beef either.
A spokesman for the N.F.L. said the league office has no role in how the clubs which have cheerleaders utilize them. He reiterated a statement the league has issued in response to previous news reports regarding the treatment of cheerleaders: Our office will work with our clubs in sharing best practices and employment-related processes that will support club cheerleading squads within an appropriate and supportive workplace.
Changing the outdated and exploitive culture of NFL cheerleading will be an uphill battle for the simple fact that right now, it is not a priority on the long list of social outrages that the league has to address again this upcoming season.