A South Carolina lawmaker has apologized for accusing Navy and Army cadets of flashing ‘white power’ hand signs after conservatives condemned her initial statement.
South Carolina State Representative Mandy Powers Norrell, a Democrat, declared that her Monday apology was ‘not because of threats and harassment of Twitter trolls.’
Included in her tweet was a two-page letter where the politician apologized for her remarks.
‘I want to take this opportunity to earnestly apologize to your institutions,’ Powers Norrell writes.
She made her initial comments accusing the cadets of flashing the ‘white power’ hand signs after they were seen making ‘OK’ gestures on live television during an Army-Navy football game.
Her now-deleted tweet read: ‘Three separate candidates making the white power symbol on television. Wonder what the culture is like for the cadet in the front? There’s no excuse and he and other minorities there shouldn’t have to deal with such a cruel and disrespectful environment.’
An inverted ‘ok’ sign, seen being made by some cadets during the game was deemed by some to represent ‘white power’. However, military officials concluded no racism was intended because the cadets were actually engaged in playing the ‘circle game’
South Carolina State Representative Mandy Powers Norrel, a Democrat, declared that her Monday apology was ‘not because of threats and harassment’
Powers Norrell shared that she deleted her initial tweet after realizing all the negative attention it was getting, adding that it was blown out of proportion.
‘I took down my Twitter post when I realized soon after that the matter was becoming bigger and more volatile than the circumstances seemed to merit,’ she explained.
The lawmaker continued: ‘I was pleased to see the findings of the academies’ investigations, showing that the young men’s conduct was merely immature and not intended to be racist.’
Powers Norrell explained that she wrote letters to the cadets who were making the gestures, adding that she hopes that they learn that ‘words, gestures and symbols matter’ and that they mean different things to different people.’
‘I want to take this opportunity to earnestly apologize to your institutions,’ Powers Norrell writes
The politician explained that during her father’s time in the Navy during the 1950s, sailors were given information about the local customs and potentially offensive slang and gestures that they could use
The politician explained that during her father’s time in the Navy during the 1950s, sailors were given information about the local customs and potentially offensive slang and gestures that they could use.
Powers Norrell advocated that military leadership work to add the controversial gesture to ‘any social awareness and sensitivity orientation your institutions provide’.
She concluded: ‘Please know that I continue to respect and admire your mission and our military, and I am always at your service.’
The South Carolina Rep. initially made her comments in a tweet about the incident.
Many have called foul on the Navy and Army’s investigation
Such hand gestures have come to be associated with ‘white power’.
However, military officials concluded no racism was intended because the cadets were actually engaged in playing the ‘circle game’.
Anyone playing the game who spots the hand gesture gets punched.
The circle game requires people to make their gesture below the waist.
At least two cadets and one midshipman were seen making the hand symbol.
Critics of South Carolina State Representative Mandy Powers, who is a Democrat to apologize for ‘smearing’ cadets who were cleared in what was mistaken for making a racist hand gesture during last week’s Army-Navy football game
The hand sign is formed by joining the the index finger and thumb in a circle while extending the other three fingers, as in the traditional ‘OK’ symbol.
After the cadets were cleared, critics began calling out the lawmaker on social media and demanded an apology.
‘Will South Carolina Democrat @MPowersNorrell apologize now for smearing our troops’? tweeted Ryan Saavedra on Friday.
Saavedra, considered an influential journalist working for the right-wing, conservative news outlet the Daily Wire, went so far as to repost Powers Norrell’s original tweet about the cadets, which had been deleted from her account.
Cuban-American director and blogger Robby Starbuck tweeted a similar demand.
‘Will @MPowersNorrell apologize to the brave cadets she smeared as racist this week? Totally unacceptable behavior from an elected official,’ Starbuck tweeted.
Also among critics of Powers Lorrell’s comments was Sandy McGarry, chairwoman of the Lancaster County South Carolina Republican party.
McGarry tweeted late Sunday that the Democrat was her ‘personal representative’ and that she was ‘appalled’ by her remarks about the cadets.
A statement released by the Army on Friday rejected any racist overtones, saying the hand gestures were ‘not associated with ideologies or movements that are contrary to the Army values’.
The Navy, however, said officials are disappointed in the immature behavior of the students and ‘their actions will be appropriately addressed.’
There were no details about their exact punishment, but a Navy report on the investigation said two midshipmen involved should face ‘administrative action’ for ‘failure to use good judgment’.
The Navy said that reviews of footage from the game, more than two dozen interviews and background checks by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI determined that the two freshmen midshipmen were participating in the ‘circle game’ with West Point cadets.
How the ‘OK’ sign came to be associated with white supremacy
The historic hand sign for OK – touching the forefinger to thumb with other three fingers raised – is a formerly innocent symbol that has recently been co-opted by the far right.
The symbol’s co-option by racists began as a joke on far-right messaging site 4Chan – where users took an innocent gesture and pretended there was a hidden meaning behind it, hoping to trick left-leaning people into outrage.
But the joke escalated and soon the symbol was being widely used among far-right extremists, leading some people to conclude it has changed its meaning.
Conservative Viner Pizza Party Ben and the alt-right’s former pin-up boy Milo Yiannopoulos began making the gesture at various campaign events for Donald Trump in the lead up to the 2016 election.
White supremacist Richard Spencer also flashed the sign on election night in 2016 in front of a Trump Hotel with the caption ‘Tonight’s the night.’
The symbol has continued to be used, including allegedly by White House intern Jack Breuer in 2017, photographed making the OK sign in his class photo, who claimed he was copying the president’s gesture of touching his index finger and thumb while speaking.
The popular emoji has been registered as a hate symbol by the US-based Anti-Defamation League, but the group warned it is still ‘overwhelmingly’ used to show approval or that someone is OK.
Others use it as part of a ‘circle game’ created on US TV show Malcolm in the Middle, which involves someone making the gesture and holding it below their waist. If someone else looks at it, they get a punch in the arm.
The investigation added that the two naval academy students ‘exhibited genuine shock’ and said they were not aware of the racist connotation of the hand gestures.
It said interviews with friends, roommates and other commanders also found no links to the white power movement.
Navy Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said sailors are expected to conduct themselves with integrity and character at all times.
‘To be clear, the Navy does not tolerate racism in any form’, said Gilday. ‘And while the investigation determined there was no racist intent behind these actions, our behavior must be professional at all times and not give cause for others to question our core values of honor, courage and commitment’.
The Navy investigation also made a number of recommendations to better coordinate and screen midshipmen who may be in high visibility areas for major events such as the game day.
And it said there should be more training for the students on how they should conduct themselves.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point reached similar conclusions. Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, West Point superintendent, expressed disappointment in the cadets’ immature behavior.
The cadets involved also will receive ‘appropriate administrative’ or disciplinary actions, West Point said. No details were provided.
‘The American people trust our Soldiers to do the right things the right way’, said Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army.
‘We must be mindful of behavior which brings that trust into question and ensure our actions meet the high ethical and professional standards our nation expects the American Soldier to uphold’.
The circle game, around for generations, was featured in the early 2000s sitcom ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ and has made a resurgence as a photo bomb prank in sports team photos – along the same line as ‘bunny ears’ fingers.
In more recent years, it became an internet meme in a online game of ‘gotcha’.
But the Anti-Defamation League said the gesture, with the thumb and forefinger touched in a circle and the other fingers outstretched, has also been appropriated as a signal for white supremacy.
That started as a hoax perpetuated on the online message board 4chan. The original idea was to take an innocent and common gesture and arbitrarily transform it into something that would enrage liberals.
The campaign was so successful that the gesture came to be used semi-sincerely by Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other white nationalists to signal sympathizers in public places.
In 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended an officer who appeared to be making the hand sign during a Hurricane Florence television broadcast.
The December 14th Army-Navy football game was the 120th such match-up between the two service academies, and part of a beloved tradition in both branches of the military as well as the world of college sports.
The Philadelphia contest drew 68,075 fans and ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ was on hand.
The cadets and midshipmen stood, saluted, bounced and cheered for the entirety of what’s billed as ‘America’s Game.’
President Donald Trump attended the game for the second straight year. Trump also was at the 2016 game as president-elect.
President Donald Trump attended the game for the second straight year. Trump also was at the 2016 game as president-elect
Trump wore a red ‘Keep America Great’ hat for the traditional coin flip in misty conditions, and was greeted by a roaring ovation.
Army called heads, the coin landed tails and the Midshipmen deferred possession.
The referee said before the toss it was with ‘great pride, great honor, to welcome our Commander in Chief, our President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Mr. President, thank you for all that you do.’
Trump sat on the Army side of the field in the first half and crossed the field to the Navy side for the second half.
In 2016, Army snapped Navy´s 14-game winning streak and has won three years in a row. But the Midshipmen routed Army’s Black Knights 31-7 in the most recent match-up. They had entered the game as a significant favorite.