A Chicago Cubs fan was recently banned for life for his use of a hand signal that some believe is a new symbol of white supremacism.
Others are confused, however, because the gesture he used has traditionally been known as the “OK” symbol, or as part of a childhood game.
An unnamed fan who was standing behind baseball analyst Doug Glanville during the Cubs broadcast last Tuesday flashed the hand signal while Glanville was speaking on television, according to reporting from NBC News. After some watching the broadcast saw this, the Cubs organization found the individual who had flashed the symbol to get to the bottom of the matter.
After conducting an internal investigation, the Cubs determined that the man deserved punishment for his behavior, which resulted in his indefinite ban from Wrigley Field.
— Chad Rehan (@ChadRehan) May 8, 2019
Some are confused over why the man was banned from the Major League Baseball stadium, believing that there isn’t an inherent problem with the gesture he used. But as with many things these days, context matters.
The “OK” hand gesture — in which the middle, ring, and pinky fingers are extended, while the index finger connects with the thumb to make a circle — has been used for centuries, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which cautions against coming to any conclusions too fast about the updated meaning behind it.
Yet the ADL also notes the recent rise of the hand signal’s use in extremist right-wing circles, including to mean a symbol of white power.
The gesture has transformed to be a symbol of hate, due to a hoax that was started by members of the online community 4chan. White supremacists and far-right members of the group meant it to be a “joke” at first, to cause liberals to overreact to the signal when they saw it online or in person, by making them believe it was a new symbol of bigotry.
Over time, however, the “joke” started catching on and became a reality for members inside and outside of the group. The “OK” sign was, for them, a symbol to use in public to express their views, albeit in a semi-private way as most people still saw the gesture to interpret it as what it’s meant in years’ past.
Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, said the incident on Tuesday was “truly disgusting.”
“It gave me shivers to watch that, to see that take place at Wrigley Field,” Epstein went on to say, per reporting from Bleacher Report. “Appropriately, we’ve made clear how egregious about unacceptable that behavior is, and there’s no place for that in society, in baseball and Wrigley Field. The person responsible for that gesture will never be welcomed back at Wrigley Field.”
The fan who made the gesture has not yet been named, and the investigation conducted by the Cubs organization has not been released to the public.