Ex-Redskins cheerleaders defend team to NBC, New York Times defends its story

Shutdown Corner
In this Aug. 24, 2013 photo, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/was/" data-ylk="slk:Washington Redskins">Washington Redskins</a> cheerleaders run out of a tunnel before an NFL preseason football game. (AP)
In this Aug. 24, 2013 photo, Washington Redskins cheerleaders run out of a tunnel before an NFL preseason football game. (AP)

The New York Times’ story on the alleged mistreatment of Washington Redskins cheerleaders during a calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica five years ago has grown to an audience far beyond football fans.

The debate reached NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, with former Redskins cheerleaders defending the team and disputing key points in The Times’ story, which was published Wednesday. The Times, which talked to cheerleaders on that trip, said the cheerleaders had their passports taken from them upon arrival, were required to be topless at a photo shoot that sponsors attended and that some of them were told to escort sponsors to a nightclub.

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NBC News said two former cheerleaders on that trip confirmed The Times’ story was true, but four others defended the team and said they were never forced to do anything they didn’t want to do.

“In all my six years, I never took off my top,” former cheerleader Maya Bonello told “Today.” “Regardless of whether you took your top off or not, that was always a choice.”

Former cheerleader Tedi Tzinares said: “If it was something you didn’t feel comfortable with, you were able to not make that a part of your experience.”

Former Redskins cheerleader team captain Rachel Gill defended the squad’s leadership as well.

“I hate that this negative light has been portrayed on our organization for something I was so passionate about and so many women felt that this was the best years of their lives,” Gill told NBC. 

The Redskins released a statement Thursday, saying they were looking into the matter but pointing out that people had already contradicted The Times’ story to them.

The New York Times went right back at NBC, defending its coverage and saying the author of the story, Juliet Macur, agreed to come on “Today” but NBC ended up canceling her appearance.

The story about the Redskins cheerleaders is one of a few this offseason that have shed light on how cheerleaders are treated by various teams. At least two former NFL cheerleaders have filed discrimination complaints, as reported by The Times.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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