Hand gestures flashed by cadets and midshipmen in the crowd and showed on TV during the annual Army-Navy football game were not racist, according to military investigators from both service branches.
Navy officials are, however, disappointed in the immature behavior of the students and said “their actions will be appropriately addressed.”
Clips of the hand gestures went viral during the broadcast on Dec. 14. Some observers said it was possible that the cadets and midshipmen were flashing “white power” signals. Others said it was most likely “the circle game,” a “game” where a person holds an upside-down OK sign below their waist and punches anyone who looks at it.
The Navy reviewed footage and interviewed more than two dozen people and conducted background checks with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI to conclude the cadets and midshipmen were participating in “the circle game.”
The investigation added that the two naval academy students “exhibited genuine shock” and said they were not aware of the racist connotation of the hand gestures. Interviews with friends, roommates and other commanders also found no links to the white power movement, the navy said.
“To be clear, the Navy does not tolerate racism in any form,” Navy Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said. “And while the investigation determined there was no racist intent behind these actions, our behavior must be professional at all times and not give cause for others to question our core values of honor, courage and commitment.”
Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, West Point superintendent, similarly expressed disappointment in the Army cadets’ immature behavior.
In recent years, the OK sign has been co-opted by white nationalists after the gesture started being used as part of a 4chan hoax.
The Army-Navy kerfuffle was not the first time a military service member using the gesture has been called into question. A U.S. Coast Guard officer was suspended in 2018 after appearing to make the signal during a Hurricane Florence television broadcast.
With Wire News Services
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