West Point and the Naval Academy have concluded that the hand gestures made by Army cadets and Navy shipmen on a live ESPN broadcast of the annual Army-Navy football game were not racist. The incident went viral on social media on December 14 bringing into question the morals and standards of West Point and the Naval Academy. The gesture has been associated with the white power movement, however some tried to suggest that the military students were either putting up the “OK” sign or playing the circle game.
Former talk show host, Montel Williams, who is a Navy graduate inserted himself in the controversy insisting that there is no “evidence” that the gesture was racist. “Both West Point and Annapolis are investigating, and it strikes me as defamatory that some in the media have branded these young people as racists without a shred of evidence,” Williams tweeted on Monday as part of a brief statement. “I understand that a handful of racists (perhaps living in their parents’ basements) attempted to co-opt the ‘OK’ sign as a symbol of white power … but that is not evidence that these kids were motivated by racial animus.”
Both West Point and the Naval Academy have readdressed the issue offering a conclusive statement. West Point released a statement on Friday revealing that they conducted an internal investigation of the cadets who displayed the gesture. “We investigated this matter thoroughly,” said Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, 60th superintendent, U.S. Military Academy. “Last Saturday we had reason to believe these actions were an innocent game and not linked to extremism, but we must take allegations such as these very seriously. We are disappointed by the immature behavior of the cadets.”
West Point said that per the results of the investigation the cadets involved “will receive appropriate administrative and/or disciplinary actions.”
Lt. Williams continued, “We develop leaders of character who serve to defend our nation and the American people, and we expect our cadets to lead and live honorably and demonstrate excellence. Leading and living honorably means to act in a professional manner at all times.”
The United States Naval Academy has issued a statement as well. Their investigation included reviewing footage, conducting more than two dozen interviews and background checks by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Naval Academy determined that the two Naval Midshipmen were playing the “circle game” during the live broadcast. “We are confident the hand gestures used were not intended to be racist in any way. However, we are disappointed by the immature behavior of the two Fourth Class Midshipmen, and their actions will be appropriately addressed,” said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck in a press release. “The Naval Academy is fully committed to preparing young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps; in this case, we recognize there is more work to be done.”
Despite West Point and the Naval Academy’s investigative findings very few believe what they’re being told. Some have even been vocal and taken to social media to express their doubts. One Twitter user wrote, “Hi, former military and West Point cadet here. Even if this were the ‘circle game’, the point of it is a male getting another male to look in the direction of their penis and then punching them for looking. So, even if the intent isn’t white supremacy, it’s certainly homophobia.”
Another person tweeted, “Interesting that in all the years that the game has been broadcast and all the former classes of cadets & midshipmen, we’ve never seen this signal until Trump darkens the door. This is the same hand sign we see from the Kavanaugh groupie & Kellyanne. It isn’t a game.”
A third person said, “IMO, it’s one of two things: They are too stupid to realize that that is also a white power sign, or they are liars. Either way, not military caliber people.”
It’s clear that the results of the investigations have unsuccessfully convinced the court of public opinion.