The Washington Football Team is eliminating its longtime cheerleading squad, months after former members alleged team employees made inappropriate videos from calendar shoots.
The organization will replace its cheerleading squad, founded in 1962, with a coed dance team, according to reports.
The move is part of a rebranding process and is said to be unrelated to undisclosed settlements recently reached with the former members, according to the Associated Press.
The cheerleading program was paused a month ago, as new senior advisor Petra Pope looked to create a new image for the franchise that, in addition to facing multiple sexual harassment claims over the last year, dropped its name with racist undertones.
“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.”
Former cheerleaders previously employed by Washington will be able to try out for the coed dance team, Pope said. They plan to hire at least 36 dancers.
“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.”
The Washington band has also been paused, but ESPN reported it will likely return in some form.