West Point and the Naval Academy are investigating students giving hand gesture tied to white supremacy during Army-Navy game

west point

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Underclassmen listen from the back of the stadium as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

  • Service academy students from both West Point and the Naval Academy were seen giving the "OK" sign, which has been tied to white supremacy, during a pre-game show for the annual Army-Navy football game. 
  • Officials from both schools told The Wall Street Journal they were investigating the intentions of the students. 
  • The hand gesture was added to the Anti-Defamation League's online database of hate symbols used by white supremacist and other far-right extremists in September

Officials from two of America's top military academies are investigating the intentions of students at both their schools who flashed hand symbols associated with "white power" while on national television, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Service academy students from West Point and the Naval Academy were seen giving the "OK" sign behind ESPN's Reece Davis during a pre-game show for the annual Army-Navy football game. Advertisement

 

The hand gesture, in which a person makes a circle connecting their pointer finger and thumb and extends their other fingers, was added to the Anti-Defamation League's online database of hate symbols used by white supremecists and other far-right extremists in September

Spokespersons from both academies told The Wall Street Journal they were investigating the intention of students who made the gesture. 
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4chan users originally adopted the "OK" gesture as part of a trolling campaign in which they said the shape of the hand represented the letters "W" and "P" for "white power." However, the ADL said extremists eventually adopted the gesture in earnest. 

Oren Segal, the director of the ADL's Center on Extremism, acknowledged the importance of understanding the context of the gesture to diagnose whether someone's intentions are meant to be hateful when it was added to the database earlier this year.In addition to meaning "OK", the hand symbol has also been used in something called the "circle game," in which people try to get each other to look at the gesture below their waist.Advertisement

While Segal admitted the ADL was hesitant to add the gesture to the database because of the sign's long history of just meaning "OK," he said the examples of it being used for hate had reached a tipping point.

"At this point, there is enough of a volume of use for hateful purposes that we felt it was important to add," Segal told the Associated Press in September.

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