PHILADELPHIA — Following a similar investigation by the Army, the U.S. Naval Academy has announced it is looking into the flashing of a hand gesture considered a possible “white power” symbol at the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia.
Clips of at least two students from each academy making an upside-down OK hand gesture during an ESPN pre-game broadcast at the Army-Navy game Saturday went viral and prompted questions about whether the actions were benign or had a darker motive.
The Anti-Defamation League has classified the gesture as a symbol promoting white power but notes that its use is open to interpretation and “in most contexts is entirely innocuous and harmless.”
The Army announced it would investigate shortly after the game ended with the U.S Naval Academy beating West Point, 31-7.
The Navy said Sunday it too would launch an inquiry.
“U. S. Naval Academy officials have appointed a preliminary inquiry officer to conduct an internal investigation into the hand gestures made during the ESPN ‘College GameDay’ broadcast prior to (Saturday’s) Army-Navy game,” Cmdr. Alana Garas, a Naval Academy spokesperson, said in a statement. “Based on findings of the investigation, those involved will be held appropriately accountable. It would be inappropriate to speculate any further while we are conducting this investigation.”
In its post on the gesture, the ADL notes it also is used in the “so-called ‘Circle Game,’ in which people attempt to trick each other into looking at an okay-like hand gesture made somewhere below the waist.”
“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,” the ADL said after urging that “particular caution must be used when evaluating this symbol.”
According to the Washington Post, U.S. Military Academy officials last week dropped the “GFBD” slogan — for “God forgives, brothers don’t” — that had been used by the football team on a rally flag since the 1990s, after learning of its current association with white supremacist groups.
The ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center say the slogan and its abbreviation are popular among members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a white supremacist prison gang.