Is the OK Sign Racist? Cubs Fan's Hand Gesture Sparks Outrage, Confusion

The incident occurred during Tuesday night's game between the Miami Marlins and Chicago at Wrigley Field

The Chicago Cubs have banned a fan from Wrigley Field for life after he made what the team deemed an "offensive" gesture on a live television broadcast of Tuesday night’s game.

But how did the universal "OK" hand symbol become associated with white supremacy?

The apparent racist rebirth of the symbol is tracked by anti-hate groups like the Anti-Defamation League to a 2017 hoax campaign orchestrated on notorious message board 4chan.

"The 'OK' hand gesture originated as one of these hoaxes in February 2017 when an anonymous 4channer announced 'Operation O-KKK,' telling other members that 'we must flood Twitter and other social media websites … claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy,'" an ADL blog post reads

But the Southern Poverty Law Center says prominent white nationalists were using the symbol as early as 2015.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended a member for forming the alleged "white power" hand symbol in an MSNBC video in 2018. Four police officers in Alabama were also suspended after making the sign in a photo outside of a drug bust. The accused mass shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, flashed the sign during a court appearance.

Some have pointed out confusion over the alleged racist salute and the "circle game" popular among kids in schoolyards. One person makes a circle with their index finger and thumb, holds it below their waist and if another person looks at it they receive a playful punch to the shoulder.

Many social media users have been quick to mention this, including in the Wrigley Field incident, and dismiss the racist accusations outright.

In 2018, a former law clerk of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh was accused of making the finger formation during a confirmation hearing.

While outrage was quick to spread on social media, experts on extremism threw cold water on the flames.

"Out of all the things you should be legitimately concerned about regarding the Senate confirmation hearings in Washington, DC, today for Judge Kavanaugh & SCOTUS, handshakes and handsigns ought not be among them. Actual serious constitutional issues are at stake," the ADL’s Mark Pitcavage tweeted in response. "Actual serious constitutional issues are at stake."

So what about the fan in the Friendly Confines Tuesday night?

"The incident last night is truly disgusting," Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein told reporters in the clubhouse before the game. "It gave me shivers to watch that, to see that take place at Wrigley Field. Appropriately, we’ve made clear how egregious and 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 person seen forming the symbol with his fingers has not been identified and NBC 5 has been unable to reach him for comment. 

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