Several Washington Redskins cheerleaders were reportedly forced to pose topless and act as escorts during a calendar photo shoot trip to Costa Rica in 2013.
Three dozen cheerleaders made the trip to Occidental Grand Papagayo, an adults-only resort, for the photo shoot, and according to The New York Times they were forced to pose topless and wearing body paint.
However, the near-nude photos were never published, the Times reported Wednesday.
The Redskins had also invited sponsors – all male – to the photo shoot and nine of the cheerleaders were chosen to act as personal escorts to a nightclub later that night, the Times reported.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go,” one cheerleader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper. “We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing.”
The cheerleaders felt as though the arrangement was equivalent to being pimped out, though going to the club with the men didn’t involve having sex with them, the newspaper reported. The cheerleaders alleged that their director, Stephanie Jojokian, demanded that they go, though it wasn’t part of their job.
“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 at the club, 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.”
The cheerleaders weren’t paid anything aside from cost of the trip, meals and lodging, the Redskins organization told the Times.
Jojokian didn’t make the trip with the cheerleaders, but said the team’s senior vice president of operations, Lon Rosenberg, and the president of business operations, Dennis Greene, accompanied the women, making the employees feel like the franchise was “condoning” the trip, they said. The women were reportedly encouraged to drink and flirt with the men.
The women returned to the van between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. and were stopped by several police officers. The officials asked the women for their passports, but weren’t carrying them because the team had confiscated the documents upon arrival, citing security concerns, according to the Times.
“I guess they thought you were prostitutes,” one person affiliated with the squad told the women.
Jojokian vehemently denied in an interview with the newspaper that the cheerleaders were forced to go to the club with the men and said the women who went were not “chosen” by the sponsors.
“But unfortunately, I feel like it won’t change until something terrible happens, like a girl is assaulted in some way, or raped.”
“I was not forcing anyone to go at all,” Jojokian said. “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 didn’t address the allegations in an initial statement to the Times. However, team President Bruce Allen issued a statement Thursday saying the team was “very concerned by the allegations in the report.”
“Based on the dialogue we’ve had with a number of current and former cheerleaders over the past 48 hours, we’ve heard very different first-hand that directly contradict many of the details of the … article,” Allen said. “I can promise that once we have completed looking into this matter, if it is revealed that any of our employees acted inappropriately, those employees will face significant repercussions.”
The latest allegations come as two former NFL cheerleaders filed discrimination grievances against the league.
Former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis and former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ware both revealed inappropriate actions by team and cheerleading officials.
Their lawyer, Sara Blackwell, offered to settle the dispute last week for a mere $1 in exchange for a meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell.