A disturbing report in The New York Times today details how Washington’s NFL cheerleaders were essentially treated like sex objects, specifically during an incredibly creepy trip to Costa Rica in 2013.
The object of the trip was to shoot the team’s calendar for the year, but it immediately got awkward. After arriving at the resort they’d be staying at, team officials confiscated the cheerleaders’ passports, which meant none of them had official identification.
Want to make someone uncomfortable in a foreign country? Take their IDs from them. What could the purpose of that have been other than to exert some kind of control over the women?
Later, things got even creepier. While the calendar would feature no nudity, several of the women were required to be topless. They were staying at an adults-only resort in a secluded area, so normally that wouldn’t be a problem. But Washington’s reps invited spectators to watch the shoots. Yes, the cheerleaders were required to be topless or in just body paint, and the team invited people to watch.
A contingent of sponsors and FedExField suite holders — all men — were granted up-close access to the photo shoots.
Then there’s this section which doesn’t shock me one bit, given that Washington’s football team is owned by Daniel Snyder:
One evening, at the end of a 14-hour day that included posing and dance practices, the squad’s director told nine of the 36 cheerleaders that their work was not done. They had a special assignment for the night. Some of the male sponsors had picked them to be personal escorts at a nightclub.
“So get back to your room and get ready,” the director told them. Several of them began to cry.
“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.”
Their participation did not involve sex, the cheerleaders said, but they felt as if the arrangement amounted to “pimping us out.” What bothered them was their team director’s demand that they go as sex symbols to please male sponsors, which they did not believe should be a part of their job.
It’s one thing to tell a group of the cheerleaders, “hey, you are all going to this party tonight to glad hand and take pictures with fans.” It’s another to say, “you each have a date to this party tonight.” That’s a pretty significant line to cross.
So this Costa Rica trip was in the third circle of hell right? Or was it the fourth? Sorry, have to brush up on my Dante.
Oh, and one more fun fact: the women were paid nothing for the trip. They were only given money for travel, food and lodging.
We all know cheerleaders are supposed to perform at games and provide a distraction during commercial breaks. Yes, they are attractive women and largely are there for the benefit of male fans. But the fact that they were used outside of that arena and placed in awkward, sometimes sexual situations with individuals they didn’t know is absolutely abhorrent. That it reportedly happened in a foreign country after they had their passports confiscated could be major trouble.
More from the Times piece:
“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 who was there 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.”
And that’s the issue here. It’s incredibly disturbing to hear these stories and something tells me more are coming.