Let the Cadets Have Fun (and Stop Giving White Supremacists So Much Power)

Anybody who has graduated middle school in the past couple of decades could tell you that if you were to make a circle with your index finder and thumb and put it below your waist, you are partaking in what is known as the circle game. If you can get some poor soul to look, you get to punch them. It’s a rather silly game that uses the same hand signal as ‘OK’, but it is now a subject of national controversy, because that symbol has been co-opted by white supremacists where instead of ‘OK’ the hand gesture means ‘WP’ or “white power.”

Saturday was the 120th installment of the Army-Navy game and while all good and decent people spent Saturday evening celebrating a Navy victory, (I kid, I love the Army, just not when they play Navy) some corners of the internet were quite upset. Some keyboard warriors caught Army cadets and Navy midshipmen on ESPN’s College Gameday doing the hand gesture and went wild.

It is clear in the video that this was the circle game. The other midshipman was clearly trying not to look at his fellow midshipman’s hand. None of that stopped people from trying to prove that they are holier than thou. When it a more innocent explanation was given, instead of admitting they were wrong, they doubled down. They should have known or they’re in the military, they should act like it.

Have these people ever seen College Gameday? Shenanigans are part of the show’s allure and tradition. Fans, many of whom are college students, bring signs trolling the other side all the time.

Cadets and midshipmen definitely have a different college experience than most of us, but they are still college students. They are still men and women who put their pants on one leg at a time and who have normal human emotions and urges, including the urge have fun, even mischievous fun.

While they signed up to give at least five years of their lives in service to Uncle Sam, and some of them will give more than time, they did not forfeit their right to have fun at a football game.

Naturally as a result of the outcry, West Point and Annapolis announced an investigation into the matter. People who immediately condemned the students want action, because they are having a hard time admitting that they overreacted in an effort to show how morally superior they are. But, if the academies come down hard on the students for playing a silly game on national TV, there will be another concern that none of the internet warriors are considering.

President Trump has stuck his nose into various cases of military justice in recent weeks and months with Eddie Gallagher’s trident review board being the highest profile case. It’s something that he has the constitutional right as commander-in-chief to do, but it’s not something that he, as a matter of good policy, should be doing.

One of the defenses of Trump’s actions has been that when officers go to work desk jobs in Washington, they lose touch with the ordinary soldier or sailor and become politicians or too politically correct. If the academies punish these students as a result of an internet mob, those concerns look like they’ve been validated, which may encourage Trump to stick his nose into more areas he should keep it out of.

But, what about the concerns that they simply showed poor judgment and that they should have known that the circle game or OK symbol has been co-opted into a sign for white supremacy?

First, most people still associate the gesture with one of its more innocent explanations. The idea that is a sign of white power is something that is mostly known to people who spend too much time on the internet.

The cadets and midshipmen who played the circle game on Saturday are not the first victims of internet rage regarding this hand gesture. Last year, former Brett Kavanaugh clerk Zina Bash, who has both Mexican and Jewish ancestry, made a gesture that looked like the OK sign during her former boss’s confirmation hearings. What could have been innocently described as finger fidgeting was described as a secret message to white supremacists that Kavanaugh is one of them.

Finally, who cares that white supremacists use the same hand gesture to mean something more evil? Since when do white supremacists get a veto over such basic human behavior as making an OK sign or having a little juvenile fun? People who claim they are fighting racism who end up giving racists a tremendous amount of social power when they do this. White supremacists have also apparently tried to co-opt milk, does that mean we should all stop consuming dairy products?

Let the cadets and midshipmen take a break from the rigors of service academy life for a couple hours and stop giving white supremacists so much power.




Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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Alex Christy

Alex Christy

Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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