The U.S. Military Academy, also known as West Point, on Friday concluded its internal investigation of cadets who displayed a hand gesture during a live broadcast of ESPN College GameDay at the Army-Navy game on Dec. 14 that went viral because of its association with the white-power movement.
An investigating officer concluded that the cadets did not intend to flash the racist interpretation of the A-OK hand gesture—which was popularized in recent years by 4chan hoaxers and alt-right figures—and were instead playing a popular teen game called the “circle game.” The students involved do not hold any “ideologies or movements that are contrary to the Army values” and had “no racist intent,” read the academy’s press release.
In the circle game, someone makes a circle gesture with their fingers. If another person looks at it, the instigator is allowed to punch them.
Despite being cleared of racist intent, the academy suggested the cadets involved in the game may be disciplined.
“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,” said Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the academy’s 60th superintendent. “We are disappointed by the immature behavior of the cadets.”
“We develop leaders of character who serve to defend our nation and the American people, and we expect our cadets to lead and live honorably and demonstrate excellence,” Williams said. “Leading and living honorably means to act in a professional manner at all times.”
Earlier this year, a Chicago Cubs fan was reportedly banned from Wrigley Field for flashing the symbol during a live television broadcast. Separately, an employee at Universal Studios was fired for making the gesture while posing for a picture with a visiting child.