As part of an effort to embrace “inclusivity” and “strength,” the Washington Football Team (WFT) has opted to replace their traditional all-female cheerleading squad with a co-ed dance team.
WFT senior adviser Petra Pope told USA Today that the club’s decision to forego the traditional cheerleading arrangement is part of an effort to promote a”skillset of being super athletic, which is what we’re really honing in on.”
Pope explained, “We want to be more inclusive, so we are going to invite a coed entity (to audition). 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.”
Pope stressed that while all of the WFT’s cheerleading contracts have expired, all performers on last year’s squad are welcome to audition for the 2021 dance squad.
Another possible motive for the WFT’s sudden change in cheerleading philosophies can be found in the team’s ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit with more than 40 women, including cheerleaders from the 2008 and 2010 squads.
As USA Today reports:
The organization has also faced claims of sexual harassment, including 40 women described in two Washington Post stories last year. Among them were members of the 2008 and 2010 cheerleading squads, after allegations emerged claiming that club employees created videos of outtakes from calendar shoots when the women weren’t fully dressed.
The franchise has denied the existence of videos, which the Post said it had reviewed. Cindy Minniti, an attorney representing the team and owner Daniel Snyder, told USA TODAY Sports the matter ‘has been resolved.’
The team reached a settlement with former cheerleaders in 2020, a person with knowledge of the settlement confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly disclose confidential terms of the settlement.
Pope also stressed that the future dance squad will not participate in calendar photo shoots.
“At this point, as we re-imagine what this looks like, that’s not in the plans,” she said. “We’re going to move forward to a more modern entity, and that more than likely will not be a part of it.
“Right now we’re thinking modern, modern franchise. A calendar is not a part of that process.”
The WFT’s strive for “inclusivity” will likely win praise in many liberal circles. However, the team’s desire to seek male performers because of their naturally greater “strength,” will likely anger just as many.