A South Carolina state representative is facing blowback for accusing Army and Navy personnel of making “white power” signs on television.
Democratic state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell weighed in last week on a controversy sparked by cadets’ hand gestures during a pregame broadcast at the Army-Navy game Saturday in Philadelphia.
ESPN host Reece Davis was doing a standup segment last Saturday 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 then they were investigating the incident and trying to determine the students’ intention.
“Three separate cadets making the white power symbol on television. Wonder what the culture is like for the cadet in the front? There’s no excuse and he and other minorities there shouldn’t have to deal with such a cruel and disrespectful environment,” Powell wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
But the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy at West Point said in separate statements released Friday that their investigations had determined cadets were actually making gestures associated with the “circle game.”
Prompted by the cadets’ exoneration, several figures in conservative media called on Norrell to apologize for her remarks.
Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra, in a tweet that was “liked” more than 4,000 times and received hundreds of comments, slammed Norrell for “smearing our troops.”
Everyone should apologize for threatening, slandering, and insulting these cadets. Not warranted at all
— Rampage (@Rampage77759370) December 20, 2019
“Will @MPowersNorrell apologize to the brave cadets she smeared as racist this week? Totally unacceptable behavior from an elected official,” tweeted conservative Twitter personality Robby Starbuck.
Andy Ngo, editor at large for The Post Millennial, said Norrell’s take was “emblematic of the ‘shoot now, look later’ approach” favored by authoritarians.
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) December 21, 2019
“You’re going to regret this”
When the Army-Navy game controversy first broke, many on the right mocked liberal commenters for assuming the cadets’ gestures were intended to signal white supremacist sympathies.
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,” tweeted conservative social media guru Caleb Hull.
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.
- Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell.: Screen grab