Sports

Washington cheerleaders furious over topless photo leak in Jon Gruden scandal

Former Washington Football Team cheerleaders are calling on the NFL to release the full results of its investigation into the franchise’s workplace culture — following allegations that inappropriate photos of squad members were secretly distributed by coaches via email.

The alleged photos were discovered in emails reported by the New York Times on Monday, which exposed Raiders head coach Jon Gruden for using racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. Gruden resigned from his position later Monday.

According to Washington cheerleaders, who spoke with the Daily Beast on Tuesday, emails showing images of topless cheerleaders from a past swimsuit photo-shoot video were allegedly passed around by Gruden to then-Washington general manager Bruce Allen.

Gruden, at the time, was a color commentator for ESPN, and Allen had hired Gruden’s brother Jay to coach the team.

In the 10-minute video, first reported by The Washington Post in 2020, Washington staffers were allegedly instructed to take behind-the-scenes content at the swimsuit photo shoot, to package and create a video featuring only “the good bits” — reportedly of bare nipples and pubic areas while cheerleaders were changing clothes or moving around. According to the outlet, the video was shared with team owner Daniel Snyder, who later denied the allegations.

Washington Football Team cheerleaders perform prior to training camp practice.
Washington Football Team cheerleaders perform prior to training camp practice.
Getty Images

At the time, a number of cheerleaders came forward with complaints of inappropriate behavior — and hit the franchise with lawsuits alleging a secret, uncensored video taken at a cheerleader photo shoot had been distributed to team executives. The lawsuits were settled out of court.

The NFL’s investigation into the franchise’s culture and workplace initially concluded in July, resulting in a $10 million fine against the team. The investigation was reopened this summer to review some of the 650,000 emails involved in the review — and that’s when the images came to light, as part of the accusation that took down Gruden.

Melanie Coburn, a four-year Washington cheerleader and the squad’s marketing director for 10 years, created a petition Friday, aimed at the NFL and the franchise to “do the right thing for women” and “make Washington’s sexual misconduct investigation public.”

“It’s despicable, really, to see that there is more evidence of exploitation and violation of these cheerleaders who I worked very closely with,” Coburn told The Daily Beast, adding, “I know that there’s a lot more where these emails came from.”

On Tuesday, attorneys for 40 former WFT employees released a statement, calling for the NFL to release the full findings of its investigation.

Candess Correll, a Washington cheerleader from 2016 until 2021, told The Daily Beast that cheerleaders still have not seen the investigation report or its results despite being “the actual victims” of the situation.

“If it wasn’t for [the New York Times article,] we would’ve never known that those pictures were going through the mail servers between these two really important people in the NFL,” she said.

Washington Football Team cheerleaders in 2019
Washington Football Team cheerleaders in 2019
Getty Images

Lacy Thibodeaux-Fields, a former cheerleader for the Raiders, said the latest email scandal involving Gruden was further evidence of a “misogynistic, racist, very sexist culture.”

She, too, called for the release of the full investigation report.

“If it wasn’t for [the New York Times article,] we would’ve never known that those pictures were going through the mail servers between these two really important people in the NFL,” she said.

Lacy Thibodeaux-Fields, a former cheerleader for the Raiders, said the latest email scandal involving Gruden was further evidence of a “misogynistic, racist, very sexist culture.”

She too called for the release of the full investigation report.