Richmond Times-Dispatch

WFT will discontinu­e cheerleadi­ng program, replace with co-ed dance squad.

- BY MICHAEL PHILLIPS

For the first time since 1962, the Washington Football Team won’t have cheerleade­rs this season.

Instead the team will replace the group — first called the Redskinett­es and later the First Ladies of Football — with a coed dance squad, the latest in a series of sweeping changes designed to modernize the franchise.

The changes come as owner Dan Snyder continues to come under fire for an alleged culture of mismanagem­ent, sexual misconduct and hostility toward

those who questioned him.

Sometime in the next few weeks, the NFL will receive the results of an independen­t investigat­ion into allegation­s by more than 40 women of sexual harassment while they were working for the team.

NFL Commission­er Roger Goodell said during Super Bowl week that he expects the report will spur further changes, but he lauded Snyder for the efforts he’s taken so far to create a more inclusive workplace.

Ending the cheerleadi­ng program is part of that overhaul.

The Washington Post reported that team video employees created unauthoriz­ed videos from cheerleade­r calendar photo shoots that showed the women while they were not fully dressed. (The team and the cheerleade­rs reached a confidenti­al settlement in legal action stemming from the report.)

During the 2020 season, when fans were mostly not allowed at FedEx Field because of the pandemic, the cheerleade­rs continued to perform, but did so via recorded videos that were played inside the stadium and on the team’s social media outlets.

After news broke that the group would be disbanded, the First Ladies of Football wrote an open letter asking for the reinstatem­ent and rehiring of team director Jamilla Keene, who was not retained.

It read, in part: “While we appreciate­d the organizati­on’s efforts to reimagine the gameday experience ‘in a way that both honors and modernizes our traditions,’ we are disappoint­ed by how this phase of the rebranding journey was handled — and at our expense.”

“Despite reports of sexual misconduct endured by female employees, we’ve remained committed to supporting those mistreated in our community, evolving our program, and changing the narrative of women in sports.”

The dance team will be overseen by longtime NBA dance team leader Petra Pope, who has worked with the Lakers and Knicks, among other teams.

In an interview Wednesday, she promised to bring fresh ideas and a commitment to inclusion to the position.

“I’ve met multiple times with both Tanya and Dan Snyder, and I am convinced of their commitment,” she said. “They have undergone significan­t changes to make this franchise much more modern, much more inclusive and much more diverse. I’m proud to be a part of this.”

The changes have come at a dizzying pace in Washington, where just four years ago the team was named the Redskins, Snyder gave $500,000 to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, and none of the team’s senior leadership was diverse.

Now, Washington has been lauded as the league’s most diverse team, and last offseason Snyder gave $250,000 to kick-start a team initiative to promote racial equality.

“I’m convinced they are committed to change, and that’s why I’m here,” Pope said. “I believe in their vision, setting the trend and becoming the gold standard in the NFL. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?”

 ?? DANIEL SANGJIB MIN/TIMES-DISPATCH ?? Washington cheerleade­rs performed during a Dallas Cowboys game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., in September 2019. A dance team is set to replace the cheer squad.
DANIEL SANGJIB MIN/TIMES-DISPATCH Washington cheerleade­rs performed during a Dallas Cowboys game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., in September 2019. A dance team is set to replace the cheer squad.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA