Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen said conversations with current and former team cheerleaders contradict a New York Times story that alleged improper demands made by the organization during a trip to Costa Rica five years ago.
Allen also said Thursday, in a statement released by the team, that any employee discovered to have acted inappropriately will face "significant repercussions."
The statement came in response to a Times article Wednesday that said the cheerleaders were required to pose topless for a 2013 photo shoot, in the presence of spectators who were invited by the team. The Times also reported that the cheerleaders were required to serve as escorts to a nightclub for some of the team's male sponsors. The cheerleaders said there was no sex involved, but they felt the team was "pimping us out."
The paper also reported that team officials collected the cheerleaders' passports when they reached Costa Rica.
"We want to express how serious we take these allegations," Allen said in his statement. "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. I can promise that once we have completed looking into this matter, if it is revealed that any of our employees acted inappropriately, those employees will face significant repercussions."
The article also cited a 2012 mandatory boat trip with sponsors that some women said was "a wild gathering, where men shot liquor into the cheerleaders' mouths with turkey basters. Below the deck, men handed out cash prizes in twerking contests."
One unnamed women who went on the Costa Rica trip told the Times, "It's just not right to send cheerleaders out with strange men when some of the girls clearly don't want to go. But unfortunately, I feel like it won't change until something terrible happens, like a girl is assaulted in some way, or raped. I think teams will start paying attention to this only when it's too late."
Allen cited the cheerleaders' work in the community and their visits to troops abroad as among the reasons they're "exemplary members of our organization."
"Our entire organization has great appreciation and respect for our cheerleaders," Allen said in the 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."
Two women, former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis and former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ware, filed discrimination complaints against the NFL last month, citing gender discrimination, sexual harassment, low pay, long and unpaid hours and discriminatory social media oversight.
In response to the latest negative story involving cheerleaders, the NFL released its own statement saying the league will work with clubs in "sharing best practices and employment-related processes."
"The NFL and all NFL member clubs support fair employment practices," the statement said. "Everyone who works in the NFL, including cheerleaders, has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws."