May 04, 2018 01:06 PM

A former Washington Redskins cheerleader on the same Costa Rica trip as other members of the squad who claim they were forced to pose topless in front of male suite holders and team sponsors, and escort men to a nightclub, is coming to the defense of the NFL team — and disputing the other cheerleaders’ characterization of what happened.

Charo Bishop, a former team captain, told Today Friday that allegations detailed in The New York Times that women were forced to pose topless in the calendar shoot were “just simply not true.”

All optional. Voluntarily. Some girls were excited to do those things,” Bishop told Today. “In terms of being an escort, that was never a perception I had. I think that being friendly and receptive and welcoming to sponsors is completely different than being an escort.”

In the Times story, unnamed cheerleaders claimed that the squad’s director told nine of the 36 cheerleaders that “some of the male sponsors had picked them to be personal escorts at a nightclub” — and they felt pressured to go.

One told the outlet: “We weren’t asked, we were told.”

The cheerleaders also said the arrangement made it feel as though the team was “pimping us out,” even though sex was not involved.

Washington Redskins cheerleaders in 2013
Patrick Smith/Getty

Bishop told Today that “we can’t discount experiences that other woman had on the team,” but said she did not feel uncomfortable during the evening spent with sponsors, and that the men did not select them.

“For me, it was a relaxing night with my friends. A fun night with my friends,” she said, noting she never feared for her safety.  “We were always with someone we knew. We were always together.”

The evening was suggested by Stephanie Jojokian, the longtime director and choreographer for the Redskins’ cheerleaders, as a chance to “go out and enjoy a night (out) with our friends,” Bishop also said.

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Rachel Gill, another former Redskins cheerleading captain who was not on the Costa Rica trip, told the morning show that cheerleaders were not forced to socialize with the men.

“Those terms ‘pimped out,’ ‘escort,’ they just need to stop because it’s absolutely not what happened,” she said on Today.

The Redskins asked Gill and Bishop to speak on the morning show on behalf of the team, according to Today.com.

Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

A day after the Times report, the Washington Post reported that a promise of a trip with the cheerleaders was used as a sales inducement to sell high-end luxury seats and suites.

Redskins President Bruce Allen told the Post that the team is “looking into” the allegations. In a statement issued by the Redskins, Allen said the team had spoken with “a number of” Redskins cheerleaders who provided accounts that “directly contradict” details in the Times story.

“The Redskins organization is very concerned by the allegations involving our cheerleaders in the recent New York Times article,” Allen said in a statement issued by the team, and that  “if it is revealed that any of our employees acted inappropriately, those employees will face significant repercussions.”

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