The “OK” hand sign has been quietly removed from two video games in the Call of Duty franchise, with some speculating that the move is due to the gesture’s association with white supremacist symbolism.
As reported by Eurogamer and confirmed by numerous posts on the Call of Duty subreddit, the gesture ― with the thumb and index finger touching as the other fingers of the hand are outstretched ― has been missing for at least a week following recent updates for both Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Warzone, the latest entries in the popular military shooter series.
The gesture was one of several hand signs that could be performed by players in the online modes of the games ― for instance, to taunt an opponent after a successful shot.
Neither Infinity Ward, the development studio behind the games, nor Activision, the publisher, has officially commented on the gesture’s removal, but Call of Duty subreddit users have pointed out that the hand sign was likely removed due to its appropriation by white supremacist groups.
In 2019, the sign was cataloged in the Anti-Defamation League’s hate symbol database with the disclaimer that “in most contexts [it] is entirely innocuous and harmless” but was nevertheless a “popular trolling tactic on the part of right-leaning individuals.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s entry for the “OK” sign explains that figures associated with right-wing extremism, such as Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos, utilized the symbol on social media as early as 2015, and members of the 4chan message board later rallied behind it in “a deliberate attempt to ‘trigger liberals’ into overreacting to a gesture so widely used that virtually anyone has plausible deniability built into their use of it in the first place.”
“The problem, of course, is that there are white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen who have increasingly begun using the symbol both to signal their presence to the like-minded, as well as to identify potentially sympathetic recruits among young trolling artists flashing it,” the SPLC explains, identifying the gesture’s intentional usage in organizations including the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer.
Call of Duty fans held mixed views on the hand gesture, with many lamenting its departure, some arguing that its usage by white supremacists was valid grounds for removal and others stating that removing it from the game only increased its renown as a hate symbol.
On June 3, Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward posted on Twitter that the company would be “adding additional resources to monitor and ID racist content” in its products and had banned thousands of players who engaged in the game’s online modes under “racist and hate-oriented names.”