Washington Redskins: First came the racism, now it’s sexism, too
A protest of the use of the name "Redskins." | Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

Topless photo shoots, an adults-only resort, a gaggle of up-close observers—all men—and a “special” evening assignment after a 14-hour day: to be personal escorts for the men who had handpicked them.

No, this is not the opening scene to some raunchy, romantic-comedy film, it’s worse.

This is what Washington Redskin Cheerleaders experienced when the team organization took the cheer-leading squad to Costa Rica for a 2013 calendar shoot, according to a report from the New York Times Wednesday.

Taking place at the Occidental Grand Papayago resort in Culebra—Spanish for snake, befitting for all the male snakes within the Redskins organization—Bay, cheerleaders said they were required to be topless, though the calendar photographs would not show nudity. With such a secluded location, revealing poses wouldn’t have been an issue if it not for the team sponsors, including FedEx suite holders, being invited as calendar shoot spectators.

According to the report, nine of the 36 cheerleaders were told by their director to go back to their rooms and “get ready.”

Though not bought for sexual acts, cheerleaders said they felt the arraignment was tantamount to being “pimped out.”

What truly bothered them was the demand that they go as sex symbols for male Redskins sponsors, which they do not feel is a part of their job.

“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.”

The Redskins made the week-long trip even more reprehensible by not paying cheerleaders for their work. Their transportation cost, meals, and housing were covered, but they were exploited nevertheless.

The NFL has come under fire recently – should have happened sooner, honestly – after two former NFL cheerleaders, New Orleans Saints Cheerleader Baily Davis, and former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ware, filed discrimination lawsuits against the league.

“Everyone who works in the NFL, including cheerleaders, has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws,” said the NFL in response to the lawsuits.

The issues found in the complaint were gender discrimination, sexual harassment, low pay, long and unpaid hours, and discriminatory social media oversight.

In response to this damning revelation, Stephanie Jojokian, longtime director and choreographer for the Redskins’ cheerleaders, went on defense, disputing the claims.

“I was not forcing anyone to go at all,” said Jojokian.  “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 responded to the allegations in a statement:

“The Redskins’ cheerleader program is one of the NFL’s premier teams in participation, professionalism and community service,” the team said. “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 takeway: The Washington Redskins football organization is proud of their racism and enjoys acting like drug-addled, whiskey fueled, sexist  60’s era “ad men.” Might make for great television, but it’s a disgusting reality that needs die out.



Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.