The Washington Redskins will protect their cheerleaders and punish employees for any misconduct, team president Bruce Allen said Thursday, a day after The New York Times published a story in which cheerleaders said they were required to escort sponsors to a nightclub in Costa Rica in 2013.
Allen said the Redskins organization was concerned by the allegations and would work to create a safe workplace for cheerleaders.
“Our entire organization has great appreciation and respect for our cheerleaders. From the work they do in the local community, to visiting our troops abroad, and for always representing the Redskins organization in a first-class manner, these women are exemplary members of our organization and are worthy of our utmost respect," he said in a statement. "We are proud of these women and support them during this time. We will continue to take all necessary measures to create a safe and respectful work environment.”
Also, Allen questioned what the cheerleaders told the Times.
"Based on the dialogue we’ve had with a number of current and former cheerleaders over the past 48 hours, we’ve heard very different first-hand accounts that directly contradict many of the details of the May 2 article," Allen's statement said.
However, if any employees did act inappropriately, they will face "significant repercussions," he said.
Members of the cheerleading squad said officials repeatedly crossed the line during a trip to Costa Rica on a photo shoot.
First, they took the cheerleaders' passports, according to the Times report. Then, they told them they were required to be topless for a photo shoot as sponsors and FedExField suite holders, who all were men, watched. Then, some of the cheerleaders were told they had to be personal escorts to sponsors at a nightclub.
"They weren't putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go," one of the cheerleaders told the Times. "We weren't asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing."
Several of the women started to cry as the Redskins' cheerleading director and choreographer, Stephanie Jojokian, told them to go to their hotel rooms to get ready.
The women said their participation in the event at the nightclub did not involve sex, but they felt the arrangement amounted to "pimping us out."
Jojokian told the Times that no one was forced to go to the nightclub and that the cheerleaders work in a "supportive environment."
The Redskins said in a statement Wednesday that they protect and support their cheerleaders.
“The Redskins’ cheerleader program is one of the NFL’s premier teams in participation, professionalism, and community service," the statement said. "Each Redskin cheerleader is contractually protected to ensure a safe and constructive environment. The work our cheerleaders do in our community, visiting our troops abroad, and supporting our team on the field is something the Redskins organization and our fans take great pride in."
Video posted to social media from June 2, 2013 shows the cheerleaders "perform for guests of the resort."
At the nightclub, the cheerleaders said they were encouraged to drink and flirt with the sponsors. As they left, police officers stopped them and asked them for their passports.
"I guess they thought you were prostitutes," a man affiliated with the squad told them, they recounted to the Times.
Several women on the team decided not to return to the team the following season, the Times reported.
News4 contacted several former Redskins cheerleaders who were with the team in 2013. Two of them, who did not want to be identified, said the events described in the Times story were exaggerated and that the experience described in the story was not recognizable to them.
Another former cheerleader, Charo Bishop, tweeted "#fakenews" with a link to the Times story.
The report comes as former NFL cheerleaders file discrimination lawsuits. In April, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader said cheerleading coaches mocked her after learning she was a virgin.