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Army, Navy say hand symbol at football game was circle game, not ‘white power’

U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen celebrate the Navy’s victory during the 120th Army-Navy football game. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Diana Quinlan/Released)
December 20, 2019

The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy have concluded their investigations into allegations students made “white power” gestures during last week’s Army – Navy football game, having instead determined the students were not actually making racist gestures.

The “okay” hand gesture seen during Saturday’s football game was found by investigators not to have been a racist signal, but rather the “circle game,” CNN reported. The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis did announce it would still take some form of corrective action over the game, which it called “immature behavior.”

“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,” Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck wrote. “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.”

 Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the 60th superintendent of the US Military Academy, said, “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.”

The “circle game” is a prank game in which one person who can get another person to see the hand circle gets to punch the second person.

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Williams also expressed disappointment for the actions of West Point cadets also reportedly involved in the controversy.

Television host Montel Williams, who also attended the Naval Academy previously criticized early speculation that the students may have been making racist gestures, though he also called the behavior “unacceptably immature conduct in uniform.”

The television host said the outcome of the investigation would determine “not whether to hold them accountable – it’s what to hold them accountable for (racism or garden variety immaturity).”

“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,” he said Monday.

An Army football coach also spoke in early defense of the students and he himself recalled playing the circle game with them, regardless of race.