Washington Football Team won’t have a cheerleading squad next season, USA Today reports. Instead, it will field a coed “dance squad” that team senior adviser Petra Pope says will be “able to do more things with the strength of a male, and lifts, so that’s changed a great deal. The inclusivity, strength and interest of choreography has changed.”
Retiring the cheerleading squad is a significant step in Washington Football Team’s rebrand. Owner Dan Snyder was particularly obsessed with the squad when the team still had its old name. As Dave McKenna reported in 2009, after Snyder bought the club he had it take over the once independent Redskinettes, then “changed the group’s name to the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, trademarked ‘First Ladies of Football’ for them, and immediately started using their skin to promote his team.” The promotions were frequently crass: fans could win a session in which cheerleaders washed their cars, for instance; at another time they could play a “hot or not” game with photos of cheerleaders on the team’s website.
The promotions got much, much worse: The team directed the cheerleaders make an annual swimsuit calendar and invited sponsors and suite-holders at FedEx Field to ogle them as they worked, forced them to pose topless, and directed them to accompany some men to a nightclub, the New York Times reported in 2018. Team videographers also, according to a blockbuster 2020 article in the Washington Post, produced private outtake videos from some of the shoots that “featured moments when nipples were inadvertently exposed as the women shifted positions or adjusted props.” Snyder told the Post he was unaware of any such videos. One former cheerleader, Tiffany Bacon Scourby, told the Post Snyder “approached her at a 2004 charity event at which the cheerleaders were performing and suggested she join his close friend in a hotel room so they ‘could get to know each other better,” an allegation Snyder denied.
The team settled with cheerleaders who unknowingly appeared in the nude videos, the Post reported last month. In a press release late last month, the team said it was working on a new gameday experience and would “temporarily pause off-season activity of gameday programs including cheerleading and music while the new experience is developed.”
Pope told USA Today that calendars would likely not be part of the reimagined dance squad experience.