Editor's Note: The original version of this story contained a stock Getty image of some cadets in attendance at a Navy football game. It has come to our attention that our use of the stock image may have caused some confusion with respect to the identity of the cadets involved in the story. In abundance of caution, we have removed the stock image and replaced it with the image you see above, which captures the incident described in the story.
Military officials are investigating claims that cadets from the Naval Academy and West Point flashed a "white power" symbol during Saturday's Army-Navy football game.
During pregame festivities aired on ESPN, several cadets and midshipmen were seen making what some claim is a white supremacist gesture. According to the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, the symbol is made by placing "the thumb and forefinger joined together in a circle, the remaining three fingers splayed out behind."
As an American, As a Navy Dad, As a decent human being... ...you hate to see racist West Point cadets emboldened b… https://t.co/sZh9XIQ3vH— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@BrooklynDad_Defiant!) 1576364250.0
"West Point is looking into it and we do not know the intent of the cadets," Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt, director of public affairs at West Point, told NBC News.
"We are aware and will be looking into it," Cmdr. Alana Garas, public affairs officer at the Naval Academy, said.
Controversy over the hand gesture caused the hashtag #WhitePower to trend on social media Saturday.
Of course, before just a few years ago, the hand gesture was a universal sign meaning "OK."
However, many pointed out on social media that the cadets, who mostly range between the ages of 18-22, were playing an innocent game called the "circle game," in which one forms a circle with their hand in an attempt to get friends to look through the circle. If successful, the person who made the circle then hits the friend in the arm.
It is a popular adolescent game that transcends gender and race, although it is most popular among teenage boys.
Here we go again. This time it’s @ByMikeBrehm of @usatodaysports trying to ruin the lives of cadets for playing the… https://t.co/AyeJl2IqUG— Cliff Sims (@Cliff Sims) 1576378043.0
Circle game. If that’s not the circle game, I’ll tweet Marvel > DC, burn my Grizzlies hat, and change my Twitter… https://t.co/39C1JyCaxU— David French (@David French) 1576373879.0
This is just idiotic. It's a bunch of guys playing the circle game about 10 years after their friends all stopped.… https://t.co/F5A459vho0— Curt Schilling (@Curt Schilling) 1576378642.0
As of Sunday, cadets from neither military academy have been disciplined, nor is it clear whether the military will take disciplinary action for engaging in a harmless game.
Editor's Note: The featured image has been updated.