By Fabrice Pierre-Toussaint
The U.S Military is currently investigating possible ‘white power’ signs by students during the Army-Navy live broadcast. During the pregame festivities aired by ESPN, cadets from both sides of the rivalry, two West Point cadets and one Naval Academy midshipman showed possible white supremacist gestures as the camera was focusing on a sideline report. The symbol was “the thumb and forefinger joined together in a circle, the remaining three fingers splayed out behind.” as described by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt, director of public affairs at West Point in an email said, “West Point is looking into it and we do not know the intent of the cadets,” Cmdr. Alana Garas of the Naval Academy also said in an email, “We are aware and will be looking into it.”
According to NBC News, The Navy won the 120th annual game with a 31-7 score. It started off with the help of sitting President Donald Trump, who took the field during the coin toss and visited both teams’ locker rooms beforehand to salute the players. A reporter who was doing a segment where the game was being held, the Lincoln Financial Field, when a cadet held up a banner that read “Go Army Beat Navy.” Someone from the Midshipmen side who was out of the angle eventually appeared to make the one-handed symbol, which looked like a W and a P, and continued until someone wearing a glove tapped him on the hand.
In September, it was moved from a symbol of gesture to a symbol of hate by the Anti-Defamation League implying the sign has different meanings. That signal itself was used by Brenton Tarrant, an Australian man charged with the murder of 54 people at a New Zealand mosque. He made that sign in a courtroom appearance. According to latimes, in Southern California, there have been racist incidents reported throughout the high school scene. School officials in Orange County reopened a report from November 2018 showing a video of high school students raising their hands in the infamous Nazi salute. Those students were required to participate in a workshop by the Anti-Defamation League. The Anti-Defamation League itself said, “The overwhelming usage of the ‘okay’ hand gesture today is still its traditional purpose as a gesture signifying assent or approval, as a result, someone who uses the symbol cannot be assumed to be using the symbol in either a trolling or, especially, white supremacist context unless other contextual evidence exists to support the contention. Since 2017, many people have been falsely accused of being racist or white supremacist for using the ‘okay’ gesture in its traditional and innocuous sense.”
It also said “Because of the traditional meaning of the ‘okay’ hand gesture, as well as other usages unrelated to white supremacy, particular care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent behind someone who has used the gesture.”
Investigations on this particular incident is still ongoing, stay tuned.