The Washington Football Team just made a big move by discontinuing the cheerleading program. As part of its rebranding effort, Washington will replace the cheerleaders with a coed dance team. Last month, the team announce the cheerleader program was paused, and senior adviser Petra Pope said the franchise is focused on creating a "more modern franchise" when it comes to game-day entertainment.
"With that comes inclusivity, diversity and in my mind, as an entertainer, athleticism," Pope told ESPN. "My desire is to create a team that is all of that — inclusive, diverse, coed, athletic — to set the gold standard in the NFL. We're looking for that super athlete that can dance, perform tricks and stunts and manipulate whatever props that will create a really great show."
The former Washington cheerleaders can tryout for the new coed dance team. Pope said they would likely hire 36 dancers or more for the 2021 season. Jason Wright, Washington team president, released a statement saying he wanted the halftime program similar to what it is in the NBA.
"As we set out to modernize the Washington Football gameday, it's important that we develop a top-notch entertainment program that keeps our fanbase excited and connected to the game and the team," Wright said. This news comes after reporters centered around the team and the cheerleaders. The Washington Post recently detailed allegations involving two swimsuit calendar shoots in 2008 and 2010. Two videos were made during the photoshoots, and some body parts were exposed. The team settled with the former cheerleaders before the end of 2020. The rebrand is reportedly not tied to the controversy, but Pope said there no plans to do a calendar with the coed dance squad.
"Change can be extremely difficult," Pope said. "I appreciate the passion that the ladies have and can relate to that passion because I've been a mentor for thousands of dancers over my career. As we progress to a reimagined era, the choreography will be much more athletic. We welcome the dancers of the past to audition, and if they have that skill set, they're welcome to join us." Washington Football Team is coming off a year where they played their first season without the nickname Redskins. The team dropped the nickname and the Native American logo last summer.