The U.S. Military Academy at West Point said Friday it concluded after an internal investigation that cadets at the Army-Navy game last week did not flash a “white power” symbol on national television. The investigation concluded the cadets were playing the “circle game,” where the hand sign is made below someone’s waist and — if another person looks at it — the person making the symbol punches the other person.
“We investigated this matter thoroughly,” Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, 60th superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, said in a news release. “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.”
The Naval Academy, which also conducted an investigation, similarly concluded the midshipmen were “participating in a sophomoric game.”
The incident occurred during ESPN’s telecast of “College GameDay,” the sports network’s pregame show for college football, before the annual Army-Navy football game on Saturday.
While ESPN reporter Rece Davis was doing a live segment from the sidelines, several Army cadets and a Navy midshipman were seen flashing the “OK” hand gesture in the background.
The symbol has been co-opted by white supremacists recently and is sometimes used to convey the sentiment “white power,” due to the fingers forming the general shape of the letters “w” and “p,” according to an explanation by the Anti-Defamation League. The use of the gesture as a racist message originally started as a hoax, but has since been adopted in earnest by actual white supremacists and members of the so-called “alt-right.”
Video of the incident went viral on Saturday and Sunday.
West Point said the cadets will receive “appropriate administrative and/or disciplinary actions.”
President Trump also attended the annual Army-Navy game. Navy won the game 31-7.
Jordan Freiman contributed to this report.