The U.S. Military and Naval Academies both independently wrapped up their investigations into the hand signals used by cadets and midshipmen that were broadcasted during ESPN's College GameDay prior to the Army-Navy game on Saturday.
NBC reports that the Navy, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation performed background checks, reviewed the footage, interviewed cadets, and determined that two freshmen were playing the circle game with West Point Cadets.
The probe came after a social media outcry over some Army cadets and Navy midshipmen at the nationally televised game making the "OK" hand gesture, which has been appropriated by some white supremacist groups as a sign for "White Power".
"The evidence strongly supports a finding that the cadets were playing the 'circle game, ' an internationally recognized game in which people attempt to trick someone else into looking at an okay-like hand gesture below the waist", the statement reads.
The U.S. Military Acadamy at West Point said in a statement on December 20 that there was no evidence to support the claims that cadets meant to make symbols connected to certain ideologies or movements.
"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", the Naval Academy's superintendent, Vice Admiral Sean Buck, said in a statement.
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"Racist statements, gestures and symbols have no place in our Army", Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. "We are disappointed by the immature behavior of the cadets". As they describe it, there was an innocent explanation: cadets were playing the "circle game".
"We had cause to consider these actions had been an harmless recreation and never linked to extremism, however we should take allegations reminiscent of these very severely", West Level superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams mentioned in a separate assertion.
The investigator determined that the game was being played in the stands before the ESPN host covering the game ventured into the crowd with cameras.
In the 120th installment of the Army-Navy game, Navy won by a score of 31-7. "We are disappointed by the immature behavior of the cadets".
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, added the symbol to its "Hate on Display" database in September.
The chief of Naval Operations also weighed in on the investigation, underscoring how high the embarrassing dustup had been elevated and how concerned military officials were about preserving a reputation for integrity.