One of the ongoing issues in the NFL is how cheerleaders, while being poorly paid, are held to a perverse standard while everyone else in the organization is not. In a very easy to see way, cheerleaders face all of the same labor issues that women in male-dominated business face. They are exploited on and frequently off the field. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that while cheerleaders are used to sell sex to the audience, what happened in 2013 when the Washington D.C. cheerleading squad went to do a promotional calendar shoot goes beyond the pale.
For the photo shoot, at the adults-only Occidental Grand Papagayo resort on Culebra Bay, some of the cheerleaders said they were required to be topless, though the photographs used for the calendar would not show nudity. Others wore nothing but body paint. Given the resort’s secluded setting, such revealing poses would not have been a concern for the women — except that the Redskins had invited spectators.
According to the report, Washington officials took the women’s passports when they arrived, a red flag for sure. And women felt even more abused on this weeklong trip, as only their flights, room and board were paid, and yet their “job responsibilities” were considerably more taxing.
One evening, at the end of a 14-hour day that included posing and dance practices, the squad’s director told nine of the 36 cheerleaders that their work was not done. They had a special assignment for the night. Some of the male sponsors had picked them to be personal escorts at a nightclub.
“So get back to your room and get ready,” the director told them. Several of them began to cry.
The women say they didn’t have to have sex with anyone; but that didn’t make them feel particularly better about how they were treated.