USA TODAY Sports' Jori Epstein breaks down the Washington Football team's new plan for sideline entertainment.
JORI EPSTEIN: The Washington football team will not have cheerleaders in 2021. Instead, they will field a coed dance squad. I spoke this week with Petra Pope, the newly hired senior advisor for creative direction in game day entertainment. She said this move to a coed inclusive dance squad is the latest step in the team's rebrand toward a more modern look. Washington paused game day operations last month, including cheerleading. And Petra says that all cheerleader contracts have expired. Cheerleaders are eligible to audition for this dance squad. She is looking for super athletes, who she says can merge hard-hitting hip-hop with tricks, stunts, and props.
Washington has come under fire for allegations of workplace harassment by more than 40 women in "Washington Post" stories last year. The cheerleading program was a source of concern after allegations of misuse of outtakes from calendar photo shoots when the women were not fully dressed. The team has since settled with the women, I'm told. I asked Petra whether the dance squad will participate in calendar photo shoots. She said, right now, that's not part of the plan, as they look toward a modern, modern team. I'm Jori Epstein for "USA Today" sports, and that's what I'm hearing.