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Navy launches internal investigation into controversial hand gesture captured on video

Posted at 6:58 PM, Dec 15, 2019

The US Naval Academy says it has launched an internal investigation after two midshipmen were captured on ESPN's pre-game show for the Army-Navy game Saturday making what some are interpreting as a white nationalist hand gesture and what others are interpreting as innocent.

"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 yesterday's Army-Navy game," Cmdr. Alana Garas, a spokeswoman for the academy, said in a statement Sunday afternoon. "Based on findings of the investigation, those involved will be held appropriately accountable."

An Army Cadet was also seen separately making the same gesture. "West Point is looking into the matter. At this time we do not know the name of the cadets," spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt said in a statement late Saturday.

The gesture in question is when someone forms the "OK" sign with their fingers and thumb -- a sign that can be associated with white nationalism.

There was disagreement online about the meaning of the gesture, with some Twitter users retweeting a video clip from the broadcast and remarking that they believed the students were making a hate symbol. Others saw it more innocuously, believing the gesture was a sign that is part of the "Circle Game" played by kids. That game is commonly played when a person forms an "OK" with their hand below their waist to trick a second person into looking at it and getting punched.

The Anti-Defamation League, which studies hate messages, said in a report earlier this year that it now considers the "OK" gesture a hate symbol in some cases.

The ADL has previously said the use of the "OK" symbol "in most contexts is entirely innocuous and harmless." The gesture acquired new significance in 2017 after some members of the website 4CHAN claimed it represented the letters "wp" for "white power," according to the ADL.

ESPN declined to comment when reached by CNN.