The Washington Football Team is ending its traditional cheerleader program after 50 years, replacing it with a coed dance squad headed by its new advisor Petra Pope.
The move comes as part of the team’s rebranding efforts, after it changed its former name, the Washington Redskins in 2020, following massive pressure from the public and its sponsors.
The team had already paused its cheerleader program last month.
Pope, who was hired this week by the franchise as a senior advisor after decades of NBA experience, released a statement on Wednesday, saying:
“The NBA has long embraced innovative dance and halftime shows, but most NFL teams have remained more oriented towards traditional cheerleading programs. Last season, Washington established itself as the most forward-thinking, progressive organization in the league. It is fitting that it would be first to develop a vision of the future. 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.”
We’re excited to welcome famed NBA entertainment exec Petra Pope to the team!
Petra will help us design and reimagine a unique gameday experience for our fans once we can all gather again at FedExField. https://t.co/FEO62wpvAh
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) March 3, 2021
Pope will work together with Joey Colby-Begovich, the team’s new vice president of guest experience, to transform the club.
The former NBA entertainment executive started her career with the Los Angeles Lakers as the manager of the Laker Girls. She launched the Knicks City Dancers during her 14-year role with the New York Knicks. She also worked with the New Jersey Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers.