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Redskins cheerleaders say male VIPs attended nude photo shoot

Recently, the New York Times reported that two former NFL cheerleaders filed discrimination complaints against the league and the teams they worked for. Their complaints have been followed by an outpouring of support from other NFL cheerleaders, who say the league and some teams allow overtly sexual and hostile work environments.

According to the Times, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader says she was subjected to a sexually and religiously hostile work environment because she is a practicing Christian who believes in abstinence before marriage. A former New Orleans Saints cheerleader claims she was fired for violating a policy that applied only to female employees.

More recently, the Times exposed disturbing allegations by several Washington Redskins cheerleaders that they were sometimes treated more like paid escorts than professional athletes. It's worth reading the entire story, which is too long to cover fully in a blog post.

One situation detailed by the Times involved a calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica in 2013. Some of the cheerleaders claim they were required to be topless, while others were clad in nothing but body paint. The purpose of the nudity was unclear at first, since the calendar would only contain clothed shots.

But the team had invited VIPs to watch the show. According to some cheerleaders, who spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, an all-male group of team sponsors and stadium suite holders was brought in to watch the photo shoot.

At the end of a 14-hour day, the cheerleading squad's director allegedly told 9 of the 36 cheerleaders that some of the sponsors had selected them to join them at a nightclub. Although the squad's director insists that no one was forced to go, the Times says that several women began to cry when they were told they had been selected.

"They weren't putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go," one of the cheerleaders said "We weren't asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing."

The event did not involve sex, but several women said they felt "pimped out." They did not feel that being used as sex symbols to please men was an appropriate part of their jobs. Moreover, no one from the Redskins management attended the nightclub to see to the women's welfare.

After the Costa Rica trip, several cheerleaders decided not to return to the squad the following season.

The NFL and the teams involved deny any wrongdoing, but this situation has all the hallmarks of a sexually hostile work environment. Do you think the cheerleaders were treated appropriately?

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