The Washington Football Team rebrand continues

After over 50 years, the Washington Football Team has ended its cheerleader program, which will be replaced with a more inclusive coed dance team. This move comes with a much larger wave of rebranding of the team that started last July when the team announced they were replacing their former name and logo. Petra Pope has been hired by the team as a senior adviser charged with creating game day entertainment. She says that her goal is to make the franchise more modern and to make changes that reflect a new, more modern team. She also emphasized that the forthcoming choreography will highlight much more athleticism. 

“With that comes inclusivity, diversity and in my mind, as an entertainer, athleticism,” she 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.” 

Team President Jason Wright has expressed he wants the halftime shows to be more similar to those in the NBA, where Pope worked for 33 years. Pope has worked with dance teams like the Lakers, The New Jersey Nets and The Knicks City Dancers, the last of which she created the program for. Wright has expressed support for Pope and said she is the “ideal” person to usher in the team’s changes. 

“The NBA has long embraced innovative dance and halftime shows, but most NFL teams have remained more oriented toward traditional cheerleading programs,” Pope said in a statement. She said that the new show will be both different and immensely exciting for fans. “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.” 

This move also comes after the controversy surrounding allegations about swimsuit calendar photoshoots in 2008 and 2010.  During these photoshoots, the cheerleaders were filmed during outtakes without their knowledge, and while they were exposing different parts of their body not meant to be exposed. The team said the decision to discontinue the cheerleader program is not related to the settlement reached in 2020, but also that, at this time, there are no plans for the dance team to participate in calendar shoots. The new team will include 36 coed members, and while all contracts for the former cheerleaders have expired, they are eligible to try out for the dance squad.

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