TV host Montel Williams defends West Point and Navy students making ‘OK’ hand gesture: The media ‘branded these young people as racists without a shred of evidence’

A few service members in the crowd made the

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A few service members in the crowd made the “OK” hand gesture at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia on Saturday.
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CBS News
  • The former TV host Montel Williams, a US Naval Academy graduate, called for the public’s patience amid investigations by the US Army and the US Navy into the use of hand gestures tied to white supremacy from cadets and midshipmen during the annual Army-Navy football game.
  • “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 said in a statement on Monday. “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.”
  • “We owe these young people, who had the courage to sign up to be part of the 1% who defend this democracy, better than this,” Williams added.
  • The hand gesture has multiple meanings, and while some people accused the service members of being sympathetic to white supremacy, others attributed the gesture to a childish game from immature troops.
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The former TV host Montel Williams, a retired Marine and Naval Academy graduate, called for the public’s patience amid investigations by the US Army and the US Navy into the use of a gesture linked to white supremacy from its cadets and midshipmen on Saturday during the annual Army-Navy football game.

Both the Naval Academy and West Point have launched internal investigations after several students were seen making the “OK” sign with their fingers. The students were seen making the gestures in uniform during a live broadcast of the service’s 120th annual football game.

The use of the gesture, which carries multiple meanings beyond a way of communicating “OK,” was under scrutiny immediately after the broadcast, with some people accusing the service members of being sympathetic to white supremacy and others attributing the gesture to a childish game involving the sign.

The Anti-Defamation League considers the hand signal as being used “by a variety of figures on the far right, including some well-known white supremacists,” but adds that the gesture “is a nearly universal hand gesture and most usage of it is completely innocuous.”

Williams, who was an enlisted Marine before attending the Naval Academy to become a Navy officer, described the cadets and midshipmen as being “hyped-up” in the game and said it was unjust to accuse them of holding ties to white-supremacist groups before knowing the investigations’ findings.

“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 said in a statement on Monday. “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.”

“Until the investigation is complete, we should all pause and realize that branding someone a racist is an indictment of their soul,” Williams added. “We owe these young people, who had the courage to sign up to be part of the 1% who defend this democracy, better than this.”

The incident was not the first time the hand gesture was spotted at a sporting event. In May, the Chicago Cubs organization barred a baseball fan from attending its games “indefinitely” after he made the gesture behind a black baseball analyst.

The Cubs’ president, Crane Kenney, said that the gesture was “associated with racism” and that “such ignorant and repulsive behavior is not tolerated at Wrigley Field.”