The road to a new identity continues for the Washington Football Team after undergoing a name change last summer and revamping front office management. As part of the ongoing rebranding effort, the team is disbanding their 50-year old cheerleading program to replace it with a coed dance squad for the upcoming season.
Washington announced on Monday that they have hired NBA Entertainment Executive Petra Pope as a senior advisor to “help us design and reimagine a unique gameday experience for our fans once we can all gather again at FedEx Field.” Pope formerly managed the Laker Girls and also started New York’s Knicks City Dancers.
“We want to be more inclusive, so we are going to invite a coed entity (to audition),” Pope told USA Today who first reported the story. “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.”
“Fans can expect an experience like none other – a gender-neutral and diverse squad of athletes and dancers whose choreography, costumes, props, tricks and stunts will rival the best entertainment across genres, and really inspire and ‘wow’ our fans,” Pope added in a statement released by the team.
Washington’s team president Jason Wright is also enthusiastic about the move.
While the gameday overhaul has been embraced by some, the plan was met with mixed emotions by former Washington Football Team cheerleaders who were abruptly informed last month that the program was being paused. Now that the new direction has been revealed, many of them sounded off on social media to share their dissatisfaction.
The drastic change to the cheerleading program comes almost a year following allegations against the organization related to claims of sexual harassment by at least 40 women.
Among them were claims that team employees created videos of outtakes from calendar shoots, with members of the 2008 and 2010 cheerleading squads, when the women weren’t fully dressed.
It was recently confirmed that the team reached a settlement with their former cheerleaders sometime towards the end of last year. The NFL is also currently investigating additional accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the organization.
While it is yet to be seen how soon this situation will blow over, it is fair to say that Washington’s former cheerleaders are on a quest to make sure their voices are heard near and far.