Military officials have launched an investigation after the “OK” hand symbol that has become known as a symbol for white power was flashed amid a crowd of cadets before the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia Saturday.
The gestures were captured on national TV during a pregame broadcast in a crowd that included black cadets. They appeared to be flashed by both West Point cadets and Annapolis midshipmen.
“We’re looking into it,” West Point representative Lt. Col. Chris Ophardt told The Wall Street Journal. “I don’t know what their intention is.” Annapolis spokeswoman Cmdr. Alana Garas also told the newspaper: “We are aware and will be looking into it.”
The signs were flashed during a spot by ESPN’s Rece Davis before the game. At one point, one of the cadets in the stands around Davis stood, laughing, and showed a banner reading: “Go Army Beat Navy.” Then someone standing behind him whose face was out of the shot and wearing a black glove made the hand sign. At least two other signs were then also flashed, with one next to Davis’ head.
The story quickly blew up on social media.
The Anti-Defamation League this year added the symbol to its list of hate signs. The symbol began as a trolling hoax by members of the website 4chan, saying the hand gesture formed a “W” and “P” for “white power.” But the gesture is now being used “in some circles as a sincere expression of white supremacy,” according to the ADL.
The hand sign, however, is also used in the “Circle Game.” In the game, players make the symbol below their waist. If someone looks, they get a punch in the shoulder. Several people on Twitter insisted the cadets were engaged in the Circle Game.
Last year, a Coast Guard officer was reprimanded after he used a similar hand sign while standing in the background of a television broadcast.