The Washington Football Team is continuing its rebrand, this time focusing on the game day experience.
The team announced on Wednesday that instead of cheerleaders, it will create a co-ed dance team for in-game entertainment. The woman they hired to take charge of the new team is Petra Pope, who hails from the NBA. Pope has spent 30 years reimagining in-game and sideline entertainment for the NBA, working with dancers for the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and New York Knicks. She also helped revamp the Brooklyn Nets' in-game entertainment after they moved to Brooklyn from New Jersey.
Pope told USA Today on Wednesday that the goal of the new team is to be diverse and "super athletic."
"We want to be more inclusive, so we are going to invite a coed entity [to audition]," Pope said. "We’re 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."
Starting new after notable scandals
Even though a team-wide rebrand seems like the perfect time to roll out a change to in-game entertainment, there were more reasons for Washington to seek out a clean slate with its dancers.
Cheerleaders from the 2008 and 2010 squads were among the 40-plus women who have accused various Washington executives of sexual harassment, including claims that cheerleaders were filmed during outtakes of a publicity shoot while they weren't fully dressed. Those outtakes were allegedly edited into at least one video and shared between multiple employees.
But perhaps the clean slate should have happened after a 2018 report in the New York Times featured several cheerleaders detailing the hostile work environment they had to deal with, including required topless photo shoots and being ordered to act as escorts for sponsors and suite holders.
USA Today confirmed that a settlement between Washington and the cheerleaders had been reached in 2020.
When the co-ed dance team takes over for the cheerleaders in the 2021 season, it'll be the first time in 50 years that Washington hasn't had cheerleaders on the field. But given the sexual harassment scandals that have centered on the cheerleaders, this change seems way overdue.
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