After Madison Square Garden Company boss James Dolan confirmed the iconic group’s participation in the event on Thursday, Rockette Phoebe Pearl posted a now-deleted message on her personal Instagram account to say she feels “embarrassed and disappointed.”
“I usually don’t use social media to make a political stand but I feel overwhelmed with emotion,” she wrote, per The Hollywood Reporter. “Finding out that it has been decided for us that Rockettes will be performing at the Presidential inauguration makes me feel embarrassed and disappointed. The women I work with are intelligent and are full of love and the decision of performing for a man that stands for everything we’re against is appalling. I am speaking for just myself but please know that after we found out this news, we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts. We will not be forced! #notmypresident’ ”
The group’s union has reportedly sent a message to full-time employees stating that they will be required to perform even if they personally object.
BroadwayWorld obtained an email from a “high-ranking member” of the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), responding to a Rockette who expressed concern about getting “involved in a dangerous political climate.”
“We have been made aware of what is going on Facebook and other social media, however, this does not change anything unless Radio City has a change of heart. The ranting of the public is just that, ranting,” the email reportedly says.
“I must remind you that you are all employees, and as a company, Mr. Dolan obviously wants the Rockettes to be represented at our country’s Presidential inauguration, as they were in 2001 [and] 2005,” the email reportedly reads. “Any talk of boycotting this event is invalid, I’m afraid.”
The note reportedly reminds — in bolded and underlined font — that non-full-time employees can abstain from signing up for the event, but that full-time Rockettes “are obligated” to perform.
“Doing the best performance to reflect an American Institution which has been here for over 90 years is your job,” the email reportedly states. “I hope this pulls into focus the bottom line on this work.”
“Everyone is entitled to her own political beliefs, but there is no room for this in the workplace,” it reportedly continues. “Everyone has a right to an opinion, but this does not change your employment status for those who are full time.”
PEOPLE has reached out to representatives at AGVA for comment.
On Friday, Madison Square Garden Company released a statement to PEOPLE, adding in an email that, “women are never compelled to perform– not for other performances and not for inauguration.”
“The Radio City Rockettes are proud to participate in the 58th Presidential Inaugural,” the statement read. “For a Rockette to be considered for an event, they must voluntarily sign up and are never told they have to perform at a particular event, including the inaugural. It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available. We eagerly await the inaugural celebrations.”
“This is business as usual,” they added. “This is not a unique situation.”
However, according to a source familiar with the union, the Rockettes likely have a contract in place with a no-strike clause.
“For the individual Rockettes to refuse to perform would essentially be a work stoppage that would likely put them in violation of that provision,” the insider told PEOPLE.
Of the 36 dancers who perform as part of the Rockettes at any given time, about 12 are full-time, TheWrap.com reported. Others are reportedly signed to holiday contracts that typically expire when the holiday show closes.
While no consequences for full-time Rockettes who don’t want to participate in the inauguration were listed in the leaked e-mail, the AGVA administrator presented the problem as a bipartisan issue.
“This has nothing to do with anyone’s political leanings (including AGVA’s), it has to do with your best performance for your employer, period,” the e-mail reportedly stated. “I will reiterate that if Hillary Clinton was the President-elect, nothing would be different, and there would probably be those who would not want to be involved because of her. It is a job, and all of you should consider it an honor, no matter who is being sworn in. The election is over and this country will not survive if it remains divided.”
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As the news of the leaked email spread, social media continued to express outrage with the Rockettes’ union.
The situation has garnered particular attention given derogatory comments Trump previously made about grabbing women against their will.
Dolan issued a statement Thursday confirming the group’s involvement in the inauguration: “The Radio City Rockettes, an original American brand, have performed at Radio City Music Hall since 1932 and, as treasured American icons, have taken part in some of the nation’s most illustrious events such as Super Bowl halftime shows, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades and presidential inaugurations, including in 2001 and 2005,” he said, per NBC News.
“We are honored that the Rockettes have again been asked to perform in the upcoming inauguration festivities,” Dolan’s statement also said.
Trump’s inauguration team has had difficulty finding performers to participate in the inauguration festivities — with only the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and America’s Got Talent star Jackie Evancho confirmed to perform, in addition to the Rockettes.
According to the 70-year-old former businessman, A-list celebrities are “all wanting tix” to his inauguration, but he wants to keep things focused on “the people.”