An investigation into found military students did not make “white power” hand signs during a weekend football game, according to the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The academies said in a statement obtained Friday by CNN that the cadets were instead making gestures associated with the “circle game.”
Sean Buck, a Superintendent Vice Admiral for the Naval Academy, said in a written statement that the academy is “confident the hand gestures used were not intended to be racist in any way.
“However, we are disappointed by the immature behavior of the two Fourth Class Midshipmen, and their actions will be appropriately addressed,”Buck added. “The Naval Academy is fully committed to preparing young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps; in this case, we recognize there is more work to be done.”
In a separate statement, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, 60th superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, said the matter had been investigated “thoroughly.”
“Last Saturday we had reason to believe these actions were an innocent game and not linked to extremism, but we must take allegations such as these very seriously. We are disappointed by the immature behavior of the cadets,” Williams said.
On Saturday, ESPN host Reece Davis was doing a standup segment in the student section of Lincoln Financial Field at the 120th meeting of the service academies when West Point cadets and Annapolis midshipmen flashed inverted “OK” gestures behind his back.
Officials from both schools said over the weekend they were investigating the incident and trying to determine the students’ intention.
At the same time, liberal Twitter activists rushed to condemn the students as symbols of systemic racism in Trump’s America.
White power symbols. From Army cadets. Knowing they are on live television.
Trump emboldens this trash. He absolutely does.
These guys should be kicked out immediately. https://t.co/yONUKu1Z25
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) December 14, 2019
As the news reports noted, the Anti-Defamation League in September added the OK hand symbol — in which the thumb and forefinger form a circle with the other three fingers extended — to its growing list of hate symbols. But making the gesture upside-down and below the waist has long been part of the popular “circle game,” in which one person tries to trick others into looking at the sign and is allowed to punch them in the arm if successful.
Conservatives on Twitter were pretty sure the Army and Navy students were playing the circle game.
You're going to regret this. pic.twitter.com/7QoSjuy23U
— Caleb Hull ??? (@CalebJHull) December 15, 2019
At a time when many on the left see signs of Trump-fueled white supremacy everywhere, OK-hand-symbol hysteria has become routine.
A similar controversy broke out in May when a Chicago Cubs fan displayed an OK sign during an NBC Sports broadcast at Wrigley Field. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney called the action “ignorant and repulsive,” and the organization indefinitely banned the fan from the ballpark.
In October, Universal Studios Resort fired an actor dressed as a “Despicable Me” character after the person was accused of using the symbol in a photo with a young fan.