Washington Football Team to replace cheerleaders: 'We want to be more inclusive'

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Scott Stump
·2 min read
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The Washington Football Team has scrapped a cheerleading team that had been in existence since 1962 and will replace it with a coed dance team.

Thursday's announcement by the NFL franchise came after team officials said last month that its cheerleader program, known as the "First Ladies of Football," was being paused in order to be rebranded.

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Washington Football Team Cheerleaders (Mark Tenally / AP)
Washington Football Team Cheerleaders (Mark Tenally / AP)

The new dance team will be headed by Petra Pope, a 33-year veteran of NBA entertainment who formerly managed the Laker Girls and also started New York's Knicks City Dancers.

"Fans can expect an experience like none other – a gender-neutral and diverse squad of athletes and dancers whose choreography, costumes, props, tricks and stunts will rival the best entertainment across genres, and really inspire and ‘wow’ our fans,” she said in a statement released by the team.

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"Petra is a force of nature and an innovator in this space. With her boldness, creativity, and passion paired with new world class expertise in Guest Experience, Joey Colby-Begovich, we will create something fresh and dynamic for our fans in the coming years," Washington team president Jason Wright tweeted Wednesday. "We owe it to them!"

The change also comes after a confidential settlement with a group of former Washington cheerleaders was resolved last month, according to NBC Washington. A series of reports by The Washington Post detailed allegations by the cheerleaders that lewd videos of them were allegedly shown to team executives in 2008 and 2010.

The new coed dance team is part of the team's rebranding effort and not related to the settlement with the ex-cheerleaders, according to multiple reports.

However, the NFL is also currently investigating accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the organization.

The contracts of the members of last year's cheerleading team have expired, but they can try out for the new squad, Petra told The Associated Press.

The decision aligns with a wider rebranding effort by the team, which stopped using the name Redskins in 2020.