The Washington Football Team will replace its cheerleading team with a coed dance team for the upcoming season, Petra Pope, the team's newly hired senior adviser, told USA TODAY's Jori Epstein.
"We want to be more inclusive, so we are going to invite a coed entity (to audition)," Pope told USA TODAY. "We’re able to do more things with the strength of a male, and lifts, so that’s changed a great deal. The inclusivity, strength and interest of choreography has changed."
According to ESPN's John Keim, the former cheerleaders are eligible to try out for the new dance team and Pope told ESPN they are likely to hire at least three-dozen dancers.
In a statement to ESPN, Washington team president Jason Wright said the team wanted to create halftime programs similar to those in the NBA.
"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," Wright said.
Last summer, the Washington Post reported on 15 former female employees of Washington's NFL team describing their experiences with sexual harassment around the organization.
Among the reported accounts, a former Washington football team senior executive instructed employees to create a behind-the-scenes video for owner Daniel Snyder, featuring outtakes of partially nude team cheerleaders from a 2008 team swimsuit calendar shoot.
Pope told ESPN there are no plans for the dance team to do any calendars.
The Post also reported the story of former cheerleader Tiffany Bacon Scourby. Scourby said that during a 2004 charity event at the Washington Hilton, Snyder told her he and the team's eye doctor had a hotel suite and suggested she and the doctor go to the room and "get to know each other better." Scourby said she declined the invitation.
According to ESPN, the team reached a settlement with their former cheerleaders sometime before the end of 2020.
Washington launched an investigation into the report shortly after the Washington Post's story but the NFL took over the investigation in August.
Prior to the Super Bowl, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said attorney Beth Wilkinson is “nearing the completion” of her investigation.
In February, WSUA9's Darren Haynes reported that Washington Cheerleading Director Jamilla Keene had been removed from her position and cited the rebrand. Haynes added that the removal of Keene was not linked to the NFL investigation. ESPN reported Wednesday that the rebrand was not tied to the controversy surrounding the program.
The team is expected to remain the Washington Football Team throughout next season, but it appears that the team will have a new name starting in 2022.