It should go without saying, but racism is abjectly wrong and terrible.
Therefore, allegations of racism carry grave consequences and considerable weight. They shouldn’t be thrown around wantonly, especially given the way in which social media can influence the court of public opinion.
While all of that should be obvious, it hasn’t stopped the latest manufactured controversy in the sports world to quickly gain traction.
The Chicago Cubs said they have launched an investigation into a fan who was caught on camera flashing what the team described as “an offensive hand gesture that is associated with racism.”
The incident in question shows an unidentified fan in a Cubs sweater making various hand gestures behind Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst Doug Glanville during Tuesday night’s broadcast of the Cubs’ 5-2 home win over the Miami Marlins.
He seemed to flash a peace sign before the offending gesture, which resembles the “OK” sign.
Given that the fan appears to be white and Glanville is black, it didn’t take long for some to start making the link of a hand gesture back to racism. They said he flashed a “white supremacy” sign.
— Chad Rehan (@ChadRehan) May 8, 2019
Ugh sure looks like it.
— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) May 8, 2019
Media outlets reported it was a “racist symbol” or an “apparent ‘white power’ gesture,” with some blurring it out in their news reports.
WATCH: The Chicago Cubs said they are investigating a fan who made an apparent “white power” gesture during Tuesday night’s game at Wrigley Field. https://t.co/YJpJ0p7knA
— ABC 7 Chicago (@ABC7Chicago) May 8, 2019
— New York Post (@nypost) May 8, 2019
The Cubs indicated the fan will receive a lifetime ban from Wrigley Field.
“We are currently investigating an incident that occurred during the Cubs’ May 7 broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago while reporter Doug Glanville was on the air,” Crane Kenny, the Cubs’ president of business operations, said in a statement to WGN-TV and other media outlets. “An individual seated behind Mr. Glanville used what appears to be an offensive hand gesture that is associated with racism.
“Such ignorant and repulsive behavior is not tolerated at Wrigley Field. We are reviewing this incident thoroughly because no one should be subjected to this type of offensive behavior.
“Any derogatory conduct should be reported immediately to our ballpark staff. Any individual behaving in this manner will not only be removed from the ballpark, but will be permanently banned from Wrigley Field.”
Permanent ban aside, this type of character assassination is the grave consequence mentioned above. Not only that, there is plenty of evidence to suggest this isn’t a cut-and-dry matter of blatant racism.
First, it can’t be ignored that the Cubs recently dealt with their own race-based controversy. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts came under fire after his father’s “racially insensitive” emails were leaked.
The team very well could be overreacting here in the wake of the email controversy, no matter the consequences to one of its fans.
And second, plenty of observers noted that the fan’s hand gesture was likely a dumb game that most people who made it through the fifth grade will remember. While the game goes by different names (most commonly “the circle game”), the premise is largely the same: You make a hole with your index finger and thumb and try to get someone to look directly at it. If they do, you get to punch them in the shoulder.
— Frank Shirley (@MrFrankShirley) May 8, 2019
this is probably just the circle game where you try to get people to look at it below your waist…you can tell he tried it lower but you couldn’t see it so he moved it higher
— Nathan Parks (@nparks6655) May 8, 2019
Look, at the end of the day, there’s truly no way to know what was in that fan’s heart when he flashed that symbol. Maybe he’s racist, maybe he’s not. Maybe he was playing the circle game, maybe he was representing “white power.” Maybe he was trying to get his 15 minutes of fame on camera, maybe he was actively trying to denigrate a black analyst.
But ruining someone’s life over a bunch of maybes seems downright irresponsible.
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