The Washington Redskins are among several NFL teams in the country that have separate teams of scantily clad, non-cheering cheerleaders who are hired to mingle with fans and have experienced harassment and groping, according to a report published Thursday in The New York Times.
The Redskins have a team of "cheerleader ambassadors" who go to luxury suites during games and attend team-sponsored tailgate parties, the Times reported.
"We were made to look almost exactly like cheerleaders, but we weren’t a member of that society. We didn’t get the perks of dancing. We were just low-paid, underappreciated, exploited moneymakers in a huge moneymaking scheme," one former Redskins ambassador told the paper.
She said that at tailgate parties, drunk men hugged and grabbed the women, and made crude comments.
Redskins president Bruce Allen said cheerleaders and cheerleading ambassadors would be treated fairly.
"We are committed to ensuring that all Redskins employees, including our cheerleaders and ambassadors, are treated with the upmost respect,” he said in a statement.
A sales video on the Redskins' website advertising suites in the stadium shows men in suites posing with cheerleader ambassadors.
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"Membership has its privileges. You and your business are the beneficiaries," the voiceover says as the camera pans up the body of a woman in a bikini.
The Times reported earlier this month that cheerleaders say Redskins officials required them to escort sponsors to a nightclub in Costa Rica in 2013.
Members of the cheerleading squad said officials repeatedly crossed the line during a trip to the Central American country on a photo shoot.
First, they took the cheerleaders' passports. 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."
After that report, the team president said the team would protect their cheerleaders and punish employees for any misconduct.
“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," Allen 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.