The Internet has been abuzz for days with rumors of a developing scandal in the nation’s capital focused on the Washington football team that’s not related to the team’s name. That speculation picked up steam late Wednesday with various reports of activities that included drugs, sex parties, “pimping out” Washington cheerleaders, and naked cheerleader photo shoots. Pimping out cheerleaders? Naked cheerleader photo shoots? Haven’t we been here before?
Washington cheerleaders calendar photo shoot in 2013
In 2018, the New York Times published a report about the Washington Redskins cheerleaders taking a trip to Costa Rica for a calendar photo shoot back in 2013. However, when the cheerleaders arrived, something appeared to be amiss when team officials gathered the women’s passports.
Some of the cheerleaders said once the photo shoot started, things took an uncomfortable turn when they were required to go topless, although no photographs in the calendar would feature any nudity. While it was a private resort and secluded, there was but one problem — there was an unexpected audience of onlookers.
According to the Times article, there was a group of men that included sponsors and suite holders that was allowed up-close and personal access to the photo shoots, something none of the cheerleaders were told about in advance. That, in and of itself, would later turn out to be problematic. For another subset of cheerleaders, it was about to get worse.
Washington cheerleaders served as special escorts
On one particular evening after a 14-hour day of dance practice and posing for photos, the cheerleading squad’s director asked nine of the team’s 36 members to stay for extra duty. They had been specially selected to serve as escorts at a nightclub for some of the sponsors.
After the director informed the women and told them to go back to their rooms and prepare for the night out, several of the women were visibly upset and started to cry.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go,” one of the cheerleaders said in the Times article. “We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing.”
According to the report, there was no sex involved, but the cheerleaders involved said the arrangement felt as if they were “pimping us out.”
The cheerleaders, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were required to sign confidentiality agreements when they joined the team, said the most troubling part was not only the director’s involvement, but her ordering those certain women to attend.
“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 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.”
Director and some cheerleaders deny forced participation
Stephanie Jojokian, director and choreographer for the cheerleaders at the time, denied much of what the women had to say. She said the night at the club was not mandatory.
“I was not forcing anyone to go at all. I’m the mama bear, and I really look out for everybody, not just the cheerleaders,” Jojokian said. “It’s a big family. We respect each other and our craft. It’s such a supportive environment for these ladies.”
Rachel Gill and Charo Bishop, who were two former team captains, appeared on NBC’s “Today” and agreed with their director that no one was being “pimped out.”
“We were always with someone we knew, we were always together,” Bishop said of the trip to the night club.
“I hate that this negative light has been portrayed on our organization for something I was so passionate about and so many women felt that this was the best years of their lives,” Gill said.
It’s a classic case of she said-she said. No one but those involved know the truth about what really happened during that trip to Costa Rica in 2013. However, if new reports are published in the coming days that reveal this type of behavior has happened more recently, then it’s safe to assume those alleged events occurred in 2013. More importantly and more disturbingly, that would confirm a pattern of misconduct within the organization and would not be a place any cheerleader would want to work in the future.