A number of news outlets reported that students had made “white power” hand signs during a pregame broadcast at the Army-Navy game Saturday in Philadelphia.
ESPN host Rece 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 they were investigating the incident and trying to determine the students’ intention.
Headlines at outlets from The Huffington Post to USA Today to The Wall Street Journal blared that the students had promoted white supremacy, caveating the news with words like “apparent,” “appears” and “possible.”
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
Others sought to shame the individual students involved.
Let’s make them go viral. Retweet.
— Hamdia Ahmed (@hamdia_ahmed) December 14, 2019
A number of liberals compared the students’ behavior to events that presaged the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.
Just want to confirm that Trump saying Jews are not American and the military holding up white power symbols in the same week is not reminiscent of anything in history we should be worried about? https://t.co/i47tec6NXm
— Zack Bornstein (@ZackBornstein) December 15, 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 mock the media’s reaction to “white power” at the Army-Navy game
Conservatives on Twitter were pretty sure the Army and Navy students were playing the circle game.
If that’s not the circle game, I’ll tweet Marvel > DC, burn my Grizzlies hat, and change my Twitter picture to Jar Jar Binks. That’s how confident I am it’s not a white power symbol. https://t.co/YLSBHrJu63
— David French (@DavidAFrench) December 15, 2019
Washington Examiner reporter Jerry Dunleavy led efforts to shame the shamers of the students, saying the media had clearly learned nothing from the debunked reporting and backlash over the Covington Catholic boys.
Seems like a big jump to conclusions. Looks more like the made-you-look “circle game” (hands are positioned down instead of up) than an OK sign (which some co-opted & trolled into a white power symbol). Maybe someone should ask what they were thinking before melting Twitter down. https://t.co/0a1frGLtRZ
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) December 15, 2019
You're going to regret this. pic.twitter.com/7QoSjuy23U
— Caleb Hull 🎅🏻🎁 (@CalebJHull) December 15, 2019
Meanwhile, earlier appreciation of the Army-Navy joint rendition of the National Anthem was largely lost in the uproar — as was the game itself, which Navy won 31-7.
Absolutely breathtaking – LISTEN to the choir sing our National Anthem at the Amry/Navy game! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/Ec4YtJPVKd
— Students For Trump (@TrumpStudents) December 14, 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.