A viral video from Saturday’s Army-Navy football game showed Army cadets and a Navy midshipman flashing what has become known as the “white power” symbol, a controversial hand sign that originated as a joke and has since been adopted by racists.
The clip was taken from a sideline report during the annual college football rivalry game, showing Army cadets in full uniform and jackets watching the game. As some smiled for the camera, a pair of cadets and one midshipman held their thumbs and forefingers together into the “OK” sign that has been embraced in recent years by racists and racist groups. Images and video of the symbol were captured and shared on Twitter by user @BruthaManTho, who commented that it was surprising to see the symbol.
The “OK” sign has a controversial history since bursting on the national scene in the past few years. The Anti-Defamation League wrote about how the “white power” symbol first started as a prank among far-right uses on the image-sharing site 4chan. The idea was originally to fool other people into believing that the symbol, which has had a number of legitimate uses stretching back for decades, was actually a white supremacist symbol.
“It is possible that some of the hoaxers were racists or white supremacists themselves, as parts of 4chan are something of a haven for them, and the site itself has been a source of adherents of the alt right segment of the white supremacist movement,” the report noted, adding, “Reaction to the ‘OK’ symbol hoax was so widespread in the spring and summer of 2017 that a number of people on the far right began deliberately to use the gesture—typically making the sign while posing for photographs uploaded to social media—in order to continue the trolling and spread it further.”
The symbol was famously used by New Zealand mass shooter Brenton Tarrant in his first court appearance after killing 49 people in attacks at two mosques.
It was not clear yet if the cadets and midshipman seen flashing the “white power” symbol could face discipline, but others have gotten in trouble for using it in recent months. Back in May, the Chicago Cubs banned a fan who showed the symbol during a live broadcast. Many took to social media to share video of the cadets and midshipman making the hand sign, calling on the Army and Naval academies to find and expel the students.