Ex-Washington Redskins cheerleaders defend team from claims about 2013 Costa Rica trip

Two former Washington Redskins cheerleaders defended the team Friday against allegations that women on the squad were forced to pose topless during a photo shoot and hang out with wealthy sponsors during a trip to Costa Rica.

Allegations that women were forced to pose topless in the calendar shoot were "just simply not true," Charo Bishop, a former cheerleader and team captain, told TODAY in an exclusive interview.

"All optional. Voluntarily. Some girls were excited to do those things," she said. "In terms of being an escort, that was never a perception I had. I think that being friendly and receptive and welcoming to sponsors is completely different than being an escort."

The allegations were published in a New York Times story published Wednesday. In the story, five cheerleaders who went on the 2013 trip said they were forced to pose topless for a photo shoot, although the resulting calendar did not show any nudity.

See the Washington Redskins cheerleaders through the years: 

21 PHOTOS
Washington Redskins cheerleaders through the years
See Gallery
Washington Redskins cheerleaders through the years
30 Sep 1990: A close up of a Washington Redskins Cheerleader as she smiles during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at the RFK Stadium in Wasington, D.C.. The Redskins defeated the Colts 31-16. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/Allsport
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 26: The Washington Redskins cheerleaders cheer during a timeout against the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI at the Metrodome on January 26, 1992 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Redskins defeated the Bills 37-24. (Photo by Gin Ellis/Getty Images)
5 Oct 2000: A view of some Phoenix Cardinals cheerleaders performing during the game against theWashington Redskins at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 16-15.Mandatory Credit: Jon Ferrey /Allsport
06 Jan 2002: Washington Redskins cheerleader perfoms during the game at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins won 20-17. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty images
The Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, known as the Redskinetts, kick off their home opener against the Arizona Cardinals 08 September 2002 at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 31: Washington Redskins cheerleaders perform their routine during the game against the Green Bay Packers at FedEx Field on October 31, 2004 in Landover, Maryland. The Packers defeated the Redskins 28-14. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Cheerleader in action, Washington Redskins against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, October 23, 2005, at FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland. The Redskins won 52-17. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Washington Redskins cheerleaders perform during game against the Oakland Raiders at FedExField in Landover, Md. on Sunday, November 20, 2005. (Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: Washington Redskins Cheerleaders stand in line during the National Anthem before taking on the Minnesota Vikings on the first Monday Night Football game of the season on September 11, 2006 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 9: The Washington Redskins cheerleaders cheer before the game against the Miami Dolphins at FedExField on September 9, 2007 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins defeated the Dolphins 16-13. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 3: A cheerleader of the Washington Redskins entertains during play against the Indianapolis Colts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium on August 3, 2008 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 21: The cheerleaders for the Washington Redskins come onto the field for introductions before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at FedExField on September 21, 2008 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins defeated the Cardinals 24-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 18: Washington Redskins cheerleaders perform during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs October 18, 2009 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.The Chiefs won the game 14-6. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LANDOVER - SEPTEMBER 19: Cheerleaders for the Washington Redskins cheer against the Houston Texans at FedExField on September 19, 2010 in Landover, Maryland. The Texans defeated the Redskins 30-27 in overtime. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Members of the Washington Redskins cheerleaders perform during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field on November 20, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: A cheerleader for the Washington Redskins cheers against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField on September 23, 2012 in Landover, Maryland. The Bengals defeated the Redskins 38-31. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 27: Members of the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders perform during the game against the Washington Redskins at Sports Authority Field on October 27, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: A Washington Redskins cheerleader performs during a game between the St. Louis Rams and Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
02 October 2016: A Washington Redskins cheerleader performs at FedEx Field, in Landover, MD. where the Washington Redskins defeated the Cleveland Browns, 31-20. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - DECEMBER 08: Redskins cheerleaders attend the MGM National Harbor Grand Opening Gala on December 8, 2016 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MGM National Harbor)
LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 17: Washington Redskins cheerleaders in action during a match between the Washington Redskins and the Arizona Cardinals on December 17, 2017, at FedExField in Landover, MD. (Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

They also alleged that certain cheerleaders were handpicked by Washington Redskins management to escort wealthy team sponsors and donors to a nightclub one evening during the trip.

Bishop, who attended that Costa Rica trip, said "we can't discount experiences that other woman had on the team," but insisted she did not feel uncomfortable during the evening spent with sponsors.

"For me, it was a relaxing night with my friends. A fun night with my friends," she said. "To put it into context, the women were not selected by the sponsors to escort them to the club. We were always with someone we knew. We were always together."

Washington Redskins cheerleaders open up on TODAY about photo shoot

She said she never feared for her safety and that that evening was suggested by the cheerleaders choreographer longtime director, Stephanie Jojokian, as an opportunity to "go and enjoy a night (out) with our friends."

Rachel Gill, another former cheerleading captain but who did not attend the trip to Costa Rica, also defended the team against claims that squad members were ever forced to socialize with sponsors.

"Those terms 'pimped out,' 'escort,' they just need to stop because it's absolutely not what happened," she said.

Both Gill and Bishop were asked by the Redskins to speak to TODAY on behalf of the team.

Redskins President Bruce Allen in a statement said that the team is "looking into" the troubling allegations and expressed "great appreciation and respect" for the cheerleaders." But he also said the organization has spoken with "a number of" cheerleaders who provided accounts that contradict details in the Times story.

"We are immediately looking into this situation and want to express how serious we take these allegations," Allen said in a statement Thursday. "Based on the dialogue we've had with a number of current and former cheerleaders over the past 48 hours, we've heard very different firsthand accounts that directly contradict many of the details of the May 2 article."

He promised, however, that "if it is revealed that any of our employees acted inappropriately, those employees will face significant repercussions."

Related: How NFL cheerleader uniforms have evolved: 

16 PHOTOS
The evolution of NFL cheerleader uniforms
See Gallery
The evolution of NFL cheerleader uniforms
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The claims are among numerous complaints highlighted this year about the treatment of NFL cheerleaders. In March, former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed a gender discrimination complaint after she was fired in January over a photo she posted to her private Instagram account.

The complaint highlighted some of the inequities in treatment of the cheerleaders and the football players.

Read Full Story