The Washington Football Team, which went through a rebrand last year, is making a major change to its cheerleading squad after hiring a new senior advisor

By Jason Duaine Hahn
March 04, 2021 04:32 PM
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Washington Football Team cheerleaders
Credit: Scott Taetsch/Getty

The Washington Football Team isn't done making changes after their rebrand last year.

On Wednesday, the franchise announced it would be doing away with a traditional cheerleading team and will instead have a coed dance group. The news comes after the franchise hired Petra Pope — an entertainment veteran who's worked with cheerleading teams in the NBA — as a senior advisor.

"This is a dream opportunity," Pope said in a press release. "Washington is one of the most historic franchises in the most popular league in the country. We have a chance to fundamentally transform what fans expect from the NFL experience."

The football team — which dropped its original name in 2020 after criticism for using a term that is considered a racial slur toward Native Americans — said the new coed group will focus on athleticism, dance and entertainment, and Pope will evaluate everything from clothing to choreography.

Washington Football Team cheerleaders
Credit: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty

"The NBA has long embraced innovative dance and halftime shows, but most NFL teams have remained more oriented towards traditional cheerleading programs," Pope said in the statement.

"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 continued.

Former NFL player Jason Wright, who became the first Black team president in NFL history when he joined the franchise in August, said Washington is looking to "modernize" as it moves forward with its rebranding efforts.

"As we set out to modernize the Washington Football gameday, it's important that we develop a top-notch entertainment program that keeps our fanbase excited and connected to the game and the team," he said. "We believe Petra is the ideal person to lead this charge and bring her extraordinary background to the gridiron."

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This will be the first time in half-a-century the franchise will not have a cheerleading team.

According to ESPN, the contracts of the team's former cheerleaders expire at the end of March, and they are welcome to try-out for the coed dance group, which may consist of 36 members. But some of them posted criticism of the handling of the situation on Twitter, where they claimed they only found out about the change to the team on social media.

"It's beyond disrespectful & honestly this all has been a nightmare because of how this was all handled," a member tweeted.

The team has been embroiled in controversy in recent years concerning its cheerleading team. Most recently, in August 2020, the Washington Post reported that Washington Football Team's former senior vice president and lead broadcaster Larry Michael allegedly compiled lewd outtakes from cheerleader photoshoots unbeknownst to the cheerleaders themselves. Team owner Dan Snyder said he was unaware of the allegations until the report. (Michael, who is no longer employed by the team, denied the allegations).